Everyone’s talking about it, you see signs for it everywhere, but you don’t really know what the heck it means to be gluten-free. Well, you kinda get it - you know that bread has gluten in it and that certain people are unable to eat it due to allergies...or something like that. A few of your friends have given it up and are raving about how good they feel, and you have to admit they are looking better than ever. Is this just a fad, or something that might benefit you? Here are some facts and tips that may help you decide.
First of all, it’s important to define the word “diet” in relationship to gluten-free. Though some experience weight loss when they stop eating gluten, this is not the case for everyone and it should not be your main motivation for changing the way you eat. Many people eliminate gluten from their lives because they are allergic or sensitive to it, which is determined by a medical test. Consult a doctor and/or nutritionist to help decide if it makes sense for you, and do your own research (do a key word search for “gluten-free” and you’ll find many resources).
Gluten is a protein found in many grains, such as wheat, rye, and barely - that’s right, this means it’s likely in your favorite bread, cake, pizza crust...it can even sneak into foods that are naturally gluten-free by way of cross contamination (oats, for example). Before you throw up your hands and walk away, you should know that there are many delicious alternatives - you don’t have to give up your indulgences. Here are few examples of yummy gluten-free foods available at your local natural grocer:
...the list goes on and on. You can find many more gluten-free foods in markets - just look for the gluten free label.
Going gluten-free doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your kitchen pantry or choosing new restaurants - you may find that your favorite foods already comply to the diet. Salad is a safe choice as long as you don’t add croutons and check the dressing ingredients. Many ethnic cuisines are already gluten-free or easily adapted, such as Japanese (sushi), Indian, and Mexican (burrito bowls). Since going gluten-free has become somewhat trendy, many restaurants will be prepared to accommodate you, or may even have dishes marked on the menu - even bakeries are offering goodies sans gluten! Depending on your reasons for not eating gluten, you may need to be extra careful and specific when ordering - as mentioned above, it slips into the oddest dishes: for example, soup is often made with flour.
If you’re still unsure whether the gluten-free diet is really for you, do an experiment to measure its effectiveness. Try taking gluten off your menu for a week and see how you feel, then compare that to how your body reacts when you re-introduce it. If you don’t notice a difference you can give the trial more time, or you may decide going gluten-free isn’t necessary for you. Remember, just because your friends benefitted from it doesn’t mean you will - if you decide you prefer your pizza loaded with gluten we won’t blame you.
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