There is a good possibility that you have heard of Celiac Disease (CD), know someone with CD or have been diagnosed with the disease yourself. One in 133 Americans has CD and the numbers continue to rise. Celiac Disease has been called a “worldwide phenomenon,” occurring in about 1% of the World’s population.
CD is a genetic disorder where eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats (WBRO), sets off an autoimmune response, which causes damage to the small intestine. This damage affects the ability of the small intestine to absorb nutrients from food, which can lead to malnutrition and a variety of other complications.
The positive side to treating CD is that it is done by diet modification, alone. WBRO and their derivatives must be permanently eliminated from the diet, which is referred to as a gluten-free diet. Clinical studies indicate that oats may or may not be tolerated by individuals with CD. However, there is no way to identify which people with CD may tolerate oats. So caution is advised when considering including oats in a gluten-free diet. This may seem a daunting task at first. Though if you focus on the foods you can eat, you’ll realize there are a lot of foods available that are gluten-free.
Foods naturally free of gluten and free from WBRO include:
- vegetables and 100% vegetable juices
- fruit and 100% fruit juices
- plain yogurt
- block cheese
- plain meat
- vegetable oils
Some examples of gluten-free, high fiber whole grains:
- Amaranth: Tiny caviar sized seeds are commercially available whole, or ground into a light brown flour with a lively peppery taste. Higher in protein than most grains. Use as a hot cereal or in soup.
- Buckwheat: Brown triangular-shaped seed with a nutty flavor, used whole, cracked or ground into flour. Makes a flavorful pilaf or cooked breakfast cereal.
- Flaxseed: Seed of ancient medicinal herb, with a nutty flavor. Used whole, toasted or sprouted; ground into meal; or pressed into oil. High in fiber.
- Quinoa: Small round grain-like fruit seed. Mild nutty flavor. Versatile; can be substituted for any grain. Used whole; as a hot cereal; ground into flour. Adds moisture to baked goods. Mix with other grains for pilaf; mix with raw or cooked vegetables as a side dish.
- Teff: Tiny kernels come in red, brown and white. Sweet, molasses-like flavor. Good source of calcium and iron. Cook as a porridge, make into “teff polenta.”
The food industry is also responding to the increased number of CD diagnoses by providing a wider range of gluten-free products in grocery stores and on the internet, such as gluten-free pasta, bread, frozen entrées, cookies, salad dressing, tortilla wraps, soups and cereals. These products can be made with potato starch flour, white rice flour and cornstarch, which all tend to be lower in fiber than their wheat-containing counterparts. Still, a person with CD can still get their 25-35 grams of daily recommended fiber by eating fresh vegetables and fruit, beans and legumes and incorporating gluten-free, high fiber grains, such as, amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, flax, corn bran, quinoa, teff, chickpea flour and soy flour into their diets.
Here are some tips to help you be successful in maintaining a healthy, gluten-free diet:
- Remember to focus on whole foods.
- Eat a variety of vegetables and fruit.
- Meet daily calcium requirements.
- Include high-fiber grains.
- Limit or stay away from highly processed foods where there may be “hidden” gluten, in the form of gluten derivatives, listed as stabilizers, gums, emulsifiers, hydrolyzed vegetable proteins and artificial colorings or flavorings.
- Become an avid label reader. If you are unsure of an ingredient listed on a specific product contact the manufacturer directly, to ensure that the product is or is not gluten-free. When in doubt, leave it out!
Check out these reliable Web sites for additional information about CD and following a gluten-free diet:
Follow us on Friday for a healthy, gluten-free chicken recipe.
— Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D., Registered Dietitian, Weight Control Center
NOTE: Information adapted from Today’s Dietitian, May 2008 and the Celiac Sprue Association website, www.csaceliacs.info.