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Gluten

Whilst it is possible for the body to develop a sensitivity or intolerance to any food or drink item there are certainly those, which are very common.

Gluten is the name given to a protein found in all wheat, rye, barley and oat products. It acts like a binder in food, giving it elasticity and a springy feel. It is found in all produce which uses wheat, rye, barley or oats such as bread and bread products, pasta, biscuits, crackers, cereal, muesli, cakes and pastries. It can also be found in beer, ale, lager, soups and processed products.

The word gluten comes from the latin for ‘glue’. This is because when combined with yeast the gluten protein in a gluten-containing grain will trap the bubbles of carbon dioxide released from the fermenting yeast. These bubbles give dough elasticity and prevent it from falling to pieces or crumbling.

Gluten is a composite name for the protein; it represents gliadin in wheat, hordein in barley, secalin in rye and avenin in oats.

The removal of gluten from the daily diet has been greatly facilitated by the wide range of gluten-free products now available in grocery stores and online. Most of the popular gluten-containing products like bread, pasta, biscuits, crackers and cereals can be found in gluten-free form. There is also a plethora of gluten-free recipes in specialist cookbooks and on the Internet.

The gluten-free grains below are used in gluten-free products but can also be found in flour or flake form for home baking or cooking:

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn (or maize)
  • Millet
  • Oats (gluten-free)
  • Quinoa
  • Rice

Gluten-free products include:

Flour

  • Almond
  • Arrowroot
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Coconut
  • Cornmeal (maize)
  • Garbanzo
  • Millet
  • Oat
  • Potato
  • Teff

Bread and bread products

  • Almond
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • White rice

Cereals

  • Cornflakes
  • Oatmeal
  • Granola

Pasta

  • Buckwheat
  • Chickpea
  • Quinoa
  • Red lentil
  • Rice

Nutrition

The removal of gluten from the diet means the elimination of a number of grains such as wheat, barley, rye and oats. Whole wheat, rye and barley are all similarly nutritious providing B vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, copper and iron. Oats are similarly rich in B1, B5, folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and copper. Whole grains are also an excellent source of dietary fibre, particularly the soluble fibre beta glucan, known for its ability to lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.

The nutrient value of all these grains does depend upon the type you eat and the soil it was grown in. The whole grain varieties of wheat and rye offer greater nutrient value than their bleached white counterparts.  For example in order to produce bleached white wheat flour as much as 40% of the original grain is removed, including the bran and germ of the wheat, which are the most nutrient-rich parts. This means the loss of over half the vitamin B1, B2, B3, folic acid, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron and fibre.

Replacing key nutrients when eliminating gluten

When eliminating items from the diet whether for the short term when implementing an elimination diet or for the long term, it is important to know alternative items that can be introduced into the diet to maintain nutrient balance.

When looking to replace nutrients you may choose to substitute a grain with a grain or look at other food groups. Below are the richest sources of each nutrient.

B Vitamins

Grains

Oats (gluten-free), buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa

Other

Brewer’s yeast, peanuts, mushrooms, soybean flour and soybeans, split peas, pecans, sunflower seeds, lentils, cashews, chickpeas, broccoli, hazelnuts, peppers

Vitamin E

Spinach, kale, broccoli, Swiss chard, turnip greens, collards, avocado, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, sunflowers seeds, prawn/shrimp, crayfish, salmon, smoked salmon, swordfish, herring, trout, olive oil, sunflower oil, sweet potato, squashes, kiwi, mango, peach, nectarines, apricots, guava, raspberries, blackberries

Calcium

Watercress, kale, broccoli, low fat mozzarella, low fat cheddar, yogurt, pak choi, tofu, sugar snap peas, almonds, tinned sardines in oil with bones, tinned pink salmon

Magnesium

Grains

Buckwheat, millet, brown rice, quinoa

Other

Kelp, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, peanuts, walnuts, tofu, coconut, soya beans, figs, apricots, dates, prawns, corn, avocado, spinach, kale, broccoli Swiss chard, turnip greens, collards

Manganese

Grains

Oats (gluten-free), brown rice, quinoa

Other

Mussels, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, lima beans, chickpeas, aduki beans, lentils, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pineapple, spinach, kale, tofu, soybeans, sweet potato, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries

Zinc

Grains

Oats (gluten-free)

Other

Spinach, beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, pork, chicken, chickpeas, mushrooms

Iron

Grains

Oats (gluten-free)

Other

Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chicken liver, oysters, mussels, clams, cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, beef, lamb, lentils, white beans, soybeans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lima beans, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, dark chocolate

Selenium

Grains

Brown rice

Other

Brazil nuts, mushrooms, shrimp, sardines, oysters, tuna, sunflower seeds, liver, eggs, beef, turkey, cottage cheese

Copper

Grains

Oats (gluten-free)

Other

Sesame seeds, cashews, soybeans, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, tempeh, garbanzo beans, lentils, walnuts, lima beans, liver, spirulina, dark chocolate, collard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, kale

Phosphorus

Grains

Oats (gluten-free), brown rice, quinoa

Other

Chicken, turkey, pork, liver, sardines, scallops, salmon, mackerel, crab, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews

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