By Noor H. Salem, Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
A growing trend in the food industry has been the production of thousands of gluten free foods. We see gluten free cookies, pastas, chips, crackers, frozen meals, pizzas, breads, and desserts. The question rises of course, whether gluten is a good or bad thing to consume in this day and time.
Specializing in food intolerance and allergies has allowed me to recognize that every individual has different bodily needs, and different food sensitivities too. I don’t recommend eliminating an entire food group (i.e. gluten) just to follow the popular fad, without testing with a doctor whether your body can handle it or not. Yes, there is such thing as gluten sensitivity, and in a more severe form, celiac disease. While an allergy is a serious reaction from food, food intolerance has more subtle symptoms that may not even show up immediately. These can include migraines, headaches, or digestive discomfort.
I’ve worked with clients who had apparent symptoms of gluten sensitivity, and after working together on an elimination process program, symptoms cleared swiftly. The point is though; do not eliminate gluten or other food groups without testing for it with a professional. Gluten is found in a number of whole grain products that come along with a nutritional punch. These grains include barley, whole wheat, rye, cracked wheat (burghul), and more. These whole grains are full of B Vitamins, fiber, heart health benefits, and essential minerals like iron and selenium. Whole grains are known to lower the risk of heart disease, and is a great way to get your insoluble dietary fiber. Whole grains, particularly the dietary fiber, aid in proper digestion and elimination. Fiber helps clear out your colon, and a diet high in fiber is more preventative of colon cancer than diets lacking proper amounts of dietary fiber. Of course, being gluten intolerant means you need to find healthy replacements to get these essential micronutrients, dietary fiber, and minerals.
For those with celiac or gluten sensitivity, stocking up on anything labeled “gluten free” on the store shelf is not the best choice to make. Many of these products are highly processed, full of refined sugars, bleached flours, genetically engineered products, multi-syllabus chemicals, and not so good for you oils. Must I mention, packaged foods labeled gluten free are by regulations allowed to contain trace amounts of gluten. For those with subtle discomfort reactions, it’s really not an immense issue. However, those with celiac disease, which react from any trace of gluten really, should avoid these by all means.
It’s not easy eliminating gluten, but go for the whole food products whenever possible. There are many great organic and gluten-free cereals, breads, pastas and various products, but don’t make gluten free packaged food your diet staple. Try grains that are whole food and naturally gluten free- like quinoa, variety of rice, brown rice, millet, gluten-free oats or amaranth. These are just a few to mention. You’re probably surprised I mentioned oats. Oats are naturally gluten free, but the majority of oats are cross contaminated in the factories with other gluten-full products. For that, if you happen to have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, then do purchase gluten-free certified oats to avoid any reaction. I also recommend that my clients try steel cut oats, which are minimally processed in comparison to quick oats and other counterparts.
Again, it’s critically more than just a label claim on the package assuring you that the product is free of gluten, but more importantly, that the food is full of nourishing healthy ingredients, nutrients, minerals, and energy-providing calories for your body.
Editor’s Note: Noor Salem is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and is CEO of her own wellness practice, Holistic Noortrition, LLC. Noor specialized in women’s health, weight loss, and food intolerance versus allergies. She offers individual and group health coaching programs, and is a speaker on the topic of holistic health at workshops and seminars. To learn more about her work visit her website at www.holisticnoortrition.com or find her on Twitter, @NoortritionLLC. The views expressed here are her own.