Many people do report feeling better when they switch to a gluten-free diet and there is no question that eating gluten-free is definitely a healthier option for some people. However, swapping an ‘unhealthy’ wheat-filled diet for an ‘unhealthy’ gluten-free diet will not lead to improvements in health and may lead to lower fibre intake. The ‘Free From’ aisle is not filled with healthy alternatives. When eliminating gluten containing foods, it is important to replace them with nutrient dense, wholefoods that are naturally gluten-free.
A healthier gluten-free diet might look like this :
Breakfast Porridge oats with blueberries and flaxseed
Eggs with spinach and tomatoes
Lunch Whole avocado, beetroot, salad (green leaves, cucumber, spring onion), olive oil dressing (olive oil, lemon juice and garlic), with humus or chicken
Supper Wild salmon cooked in tarragon and lemon juice, small baked sweet potato, half plate vegetables, 3 different types, including dark green leafy vegetables
The benefits of this wholefood, naturally gluten-free diet include:
• This diet includes 7 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit, so this diet is high in phytonutrients (carotenoids and flavonoids). The vegetables and fruit will also provide fibre
• Plenty of healthy fats are included – flaxseed, avocado, olive oil, oily fish. In addition, there is no sunflower or vegetable oil, which can be high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids
• Sources of fibre are plentiful including oats, blueberries, flaxseed, avocado, other vegetables including the sweet potato
• No added sugars, the blueberries contain some natural sugars but are a low glycaemic fruit
• The variety of food types is increased – 20 different foods in one day
• Gluten-free (GF) products have been found to be higher in fat, sugar and salt and lower in fibre than conventional products (i.e. containing wheat, barley or rye).
• Many people’s diet is heavily wheat-based – bread, pasta or wheat-based cereals being eaten at every meal and snack. Even for those who do not react to gluten, this cannot be considered a healthy diet.
• If you choose to eat a gluten-free diet, then choose naturally gluten-free alternatives – oats, rice, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, quinoa – rather than GF products (it’s okay to eat these on an occasional basis).
• Even if you don’t suspect a problem with gluten foods, reduce the amount of wheat/ gluten you eat by swapping bread and pasta for root vegetables, pulses and potatoes.