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Medical News Today: What gluten-free food can I eat?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Some people who choose to eat gluten-free often avoid eating overly processed breads, pasta, and other baked goods. This can lead to weight loss and overall health improvements, as people avoid highly processed, unhealthful foods.

For some other people, however, eating gluten-free is a necessity. In these cases, a person likely has celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Similar to other food-related allergies and illnesses, a person who cannot process gluten properly may become ill after eating it.

It is possible for people eating gluten-free to have healthful diets. A person should focus their gluten-free diet much like any other diet so that it includes:

  • lean proteins
  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • whole grains, such as brown rice and quinoa
  • beans, peas, and lentils
  • healthful fats

Read on to discover some of the best gluten-free foods to fit into several dietary options.

Gluten-free foods for different diets

Gluten-free pancakes for different diets topped with blueberries and nuts
A person can use gluten-free flour to make baked goods, including pancakes.

There are many potential gluten-free options for different diets.

People can choose foods that fit into the dietary plan they follow. Below are some suggestions for various diet options.

Some gluten-free foods that fit into many diets include:

  • any whole, fresh vegetable
  • any whole, fresh fruit
  • lean proteins, such as beans and eggs
  • gluten-free baked goods, including pancakes, waffles, and bread

Below are some healthful choices of foods to eat that center on different dietary preferences

For vegetarians

Vegetarian diets focus on replacing meat with plant-based proteins. Often, vegetarian diets may include either egg, dairy, or both. Both are excellent protein choices.

For those who wish to avoid all animal products, there are several nutrient-rich foods they can eat that do not contain gluten including:

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a nutrient-rich food. According to a 2016 study, 4 tablespoons of traditional chickpea hummus each day provides about 25 grams (g) of fiber and about 14 g of plant protein per week.

Sweet potato

People often call sweet potatoes a superfood. A superfood provides a high proportion of nutrients for the number of calories they contain.

Sweet potatoes include a good amount of:

Whole oats

Whole oats offer a variety of nutrients and potential health benefits.

People can eat them as a cereal, use them as flour in baking recipes, or even as skin ointments. Doctors consider oats safe for people with celiac disease if the oats have a certification that they are gluten-free.

As a result, there is an increasing number of baked goods that contain only oat flour.

According to a 2015 study, some of the potential benefits of oats include:

  • moderate to high amounts of dietary fiber
  • potential anticancerous properties
  • reduces blood cholesterol
  • high-protein value important for vegetarians

Low-carb diets

Gluten-free foods a person on a low-carb diet may eat include:

Spinach

Bowl of cooked spinach with garlic
Spinach is rich in nutrients, such as iron and folic acid.

Spinach is a dark green, leafy vegetable. For people on a low-carbohydrate diet, spinach offers high fiber and protein intake.

Spinach is also a good source of:

According to a 2015 study, people eating a diet that includes spinach could also lower their blood pressure. This is primarily due to the nitrates in spinach that help to relax blood vessels.

All other raw and fresh vegetables are low carb as well as gluten-free. So people can enjoy vegetables, for example, other dark-green leafy greens, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, squash, tomatoes, carrots, and many others.

Poultry

Poultry describes several low-fat, high-protein meats, including chicken and turkey. Adding these to a low-carb diet can provide several nutrients.

According to a 2015 study, some of the benefits of consuming poultry include:

  • high protein content
  • several vitamins and minerals
  • aid to weight control due to supporting fullness

Other raw or unprocessed proteins, including eggs, fish, shrimp, and red meat also contain no gluten.

Olive oil

Olive oil is typically a healthful fat to consume. Its benefits include:

  • no association with weight gain
  • cardiovascular health
  • stroke prevention
  • anti-inflammatory properties
  • contains antioxidants
  • monounsaturated fats
  • may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes

People can use olive oil as a substitute for butter and margarine in many recipes. Other gluten-free whole fats include avocado, nuts, coconuts, and seeds.

Dietary guidelines and eating gluten-free

Quinoa salad with tomatoes and broccoli and sweetcorn
Quinoa is a gluten-free source of carbohydrates.

The current nutritional guidelines outline the foods a person should eat for optimal health. The recommendations include:

  • a variety of vegetables, including beans and spinach
  • whole or minimally processed fruits
  • low-fat or no-fat dairy products
  • protein sources that include poultry, beans, and seafood
  • oils

The recommendations do not include baked goods or pasta. Instead, people obtain their carbohydrate intake from vegetables, fruits, and other natural sources.

For people interested in following these guidelines, there are some foods a person can eat that do not contain gluten, including:

  • quinoa
  • canned sardines and tuna
  • applesauce

Foods to avoid

Major foods that contain gluten include:

  • white or wholewheat bread
  • white or wholewheat pastas
  • muffins, doughnuts, and other pastries
  • breaded meats, such as chicken wings or cutlets
  • crackers
  • many cereals
  • desserts

There are other foods containing gluten that are not as obvious. Some foods to avoid that may contain gluten include:

  • potato chips
  • french fries
  • malt
  • sauces and gravies
  • beer
  • some candies
  • soy sauce
  • meat substitutes
  • lunch meats
  • soup, particularly cream-based ones
  • preseasoned meats
  • scrambled eggs at restaurants where pancake batter may be an additional ingredient

Takeaway

Though gluten-free diets may help a person eat healthier foods overall, not all gluten-free options are healthful. In fact, a review in the journal Gastroenterology and Hepatology describes some potential drawbacks of eating gluten-free that include:

  • Gluten-free foods are sometimes not enriched in comparison to their gluten-containing counterparts so may lack nutrients.
  • People eating gluten-free often eat more lipids, trans fat, protein, and salt
  • Gluten-free diets tend to be more expensive.
  • Packaged gluten-free foods may be lower in fiber.

Gluten-free food is easy to find when avoiding processed and premade foods. Someone who is willing to pay a bit extra can also get many foods, such as bread and pasta, in gluten-free varieties.