These days so many people are trying out gluten-free foods whether it’s medically required or not. For people with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which the small intestine is damaged by gluten, the treatment is to eat a strictly gluten free diet. Some people who don’t have celiac disease say they feel better when they don’t eat gluten. It may be that they have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). If you’re just starting with a gluten-free diet, it’s a good idea to consult a dietitian who can answer your questions and offer advice about how to avoid gluten while still eating a healthy, balanced diet.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye and some oats. Gluten is also found in other whole grain foods related to wheat, including bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt, and triticale. Gluten comes from the Latin word for glue – which tells you about its role in baking. Gluten gives dough its elasticity and bread a chewy texture. In many other foods gluten may be hidden in ingredients or added as thickeners and sauces.
Gluten Free Oats
Regular oats are not necessarily gluten-free because they can often contain some wheat, rye or barley as a result of the way they are grown, harvested and transported along-side these other grains. Until recently experts were concerned about gluten found in oats, but now there are oats that are gluten free. This is good news since unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Oats are such a wholesome cereal grain with nutritional benefits including fibre and vitamins, and it’s great that a variety of gluten-free oats are now available for people on a gluten-free diet. Made Good granola bars and minis contain oats that are naturally gluten-free. Knowing that a food is made with ‘gluten-free’ type oats helps ensure that people with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity know that the food is safe for them to eat because it is different from regular oats.
Gluten Free Foods
Many foods are naturally gluten free, including starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes and rice. Vegetables, fruit, beans and peas are also gluten free as are dairy and meat. Grain foods that are packaged and show a gluten free icon are guaranteed by the manufacturer to be gluten free. Health Canada’s requirement for gluten free labeling is less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten in food, which is considered nutritionally insignificant and will not harm people sensitive to gluten. Made Good Foods’ granola snacks carry the GF label and are gluten free foods.
Lucia Weiler is a Registered Dietitian (Nutritionist) and Professional Home Economist with a passion for food, health and wellness. She is the President of Weiler Nutrition Communications Inc. a consulting practice that provides expert services in nutrition trends, education, food safety and labelling compliance. Lucia is a pro at translating the science of nutrition into easy to understand, practical advice for Canadians. She is faculty at Humber College and Member of the Board of Directors for Dietitians of Canada. For more insightful nutrition tips visit www.weilernutrition.com or follow on Twitter/Instagram @LuciaWeilerRD
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 Mayo Clinic (2014) Gluten-free diet http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530
 Health Canada (2015) Gluten Free Labelling, http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/allerg/cel-coe/avoine-gluten-oats-eng.php