In the past few years, living a gluten-free lifestyle has become more and more popular. Some people stumble into gluten-free diets at the recommendation of their doctor or because of underlying medical conditions. Others go into a gluten-free diet because they are curious about how they’ll feel when they eliminate gluten from their meals. Maybe you fit into one of those two groups, but you’re not sure where to start with changing your diet, or even what it means to be gluten-free.
What does it mean to be gluten-free?
Gluten is an overarching term for proteins that are found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. So overall, going on a gluten-free diet means excluding any foods that have those proteins.
Why go gluten-free?
One common reason to go gluten-free is if you suffer from celiac disease, which according to the Mayo Clinic, is “an autoimmune disorder in which gluten triggers immune activity that damages the lining of the small intestine.” The bottom line is that over time, the damage to the small intestine actually prevents the absorption of nutrients from foods. There are also negative side effects from celiac disease such as abdominal pain, bloating, and even headaches and fogginess of the mind.
Aside from celiac disease, there are some people who have sensitivity to gluten. This sensitivity may have its own series of side effects, although they are not as severe as celiac disease. Oftentimes, it includes tiredness and stomachaches. Some people will change their diet to be gluten-free in order to see if gluten is the cause of their fatigue, and many are finding that they feel more energized on a gluten-free diet.
What foods have gluten in them?
Bread is the item that comes to the forefront of most people’s minds, but wheat and gluten are found in many different foods, such as baked goods, soups, pasta, cereal, and salad dressings. The other categories of rye, barley, and triticale often appear in food coloring, beer, yeast, and the same categories as wheat. This is in no way an extensive list, but it covers the broad areas of gluten-rich foods.
What do I eat on a gluten-free diet?
It’s true that your diet is quite restricted on a gluten-free diet, but there’s still plenty of tasty options out there. There are foods that naturally don’t have gluten in them, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Proteins such as nuts and seeds are also gluten-free, as are meats like fresh beef, pork, and lamb. When you’re on a gluten-free diet, you still need to make sure your body is getting the necessary proteins and vitamins, so do your research to create a diet that is balanced and healthy.
Whether you’re starting out on a gluten-free diet or you've been on one for a long time, here’s a fabulous gluten-free recipe to help you celebrate National Gluten-Free Day, January 13th.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9x13 baking dish.
Cook your elbow macaroni in lightly salted boiling water. Cook until the pasta is cooked through (about 8 minutes) and then drain the water.
Melt ¼ cup of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Then, stir in the salt and mustard powder and remove the saucepan from heat.
Whisk your milk and cornstarch together in a bowl until it’s smooth. Blend with butter mixture and return the saucepan to the stove. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about five minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
Stir 3 cups of cheddar cheese into the sauce until the cheese melts.
Add your pasta to the cheese sauce and stir well; pour into a prepared baking dish.
Combine the remaining cup of cheddar cheese, gluten-free bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon butter, and paprika in a bowl and sprinkle over the pasta mixture.
Bake in the oven for about thirty minutes or until the top is crunchy.
If you would like more information on what it means to be gluten-free or more about celiac disease, check out these sources.