Adhering to a gluten-free diet can be difficult, especially if you have a serious medical condition such as celiac disease. But no matter why you’re looking to cut out gluten, make sure you aren’t also cutting back your nutrition.
"If you are following a gluten-free diet, replace gluten grains like wheat, barley, rye and triticale with at least 1 ½ cups of other whole grains a day,” said Sara Lee Thomas, a registered dietitian at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis. “Whole grains reduce the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. In fact, children and adults who eat more whole grains weigh less than other people their height and have waists up to an inch smaller."
When looking for gluten-free whole grains, Thomas recommends: amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, brown rice, sorghum, teff and wild rice. Wild rice, by the way, is harvested from four species of grass that form the genus Zizania – providing the Z in our A to Z list of gluten-free grains!
If you buy oats, Thomas says to make sure they are labeled with the gluten-free “GF” symbol. Although oats themselves are naturally gluten free, sometimes gluten grains such as wheat can be mixed in unintentionally.
Thomas cautions against eating rice as your only gluten free grain, as one study showed that you may get too much arsenic from rice, a toxic mineral.
"Whether you’re gluten-free or not, you should be eating a variety of grains,” said Thomas. “Quinoa is a quick cooking whole grain and is easy to substitute for rice on occasion. And thankfully, there is so much more variety in gluten-free foods to choose from these days, from baking mixes to ready-to-eat products."
If you think you might have celiac disease, Thomas advises not going gluten-free until a physician diagnoses you.
"Going gluten-free before you are tested will confuse the testing and can delay a clear diagnosis up to a year,” said Thomas. “It’s better to wait until you know for sure since having celiac disease requires a lifelong gluten-free diet."
Learn more about celiac disease and gluten intolerance at our health library.