Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause serious health issues like intestinal damage, malnutrition and anemia. Fortunately, there are many nutritious and delicious foods that are naturally gluten-free. Here are 3 gluten-free foods that are healthy and easy to find:
Fruits and Vegetables
All fresh fruits and vegetables are gluten-free. This includes produce like apples, bananas, berries, citrus fruits, carrots, spinach, kale, broccoli, potatoes and more. Fruits and veggies are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. They provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Eating a variety of colorful produce can help prevent nutrient deficiencies and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
When shopping for produce, check ingredient labels on pre-cut, frozen, canned, dried and processed fruits and vegetables, as they may contain added sources of gluten like preservatives or flavorings. But all plain fresh fruits and veggies can be enjoyed freely on a gluten-free diet.
Beans, Legumes and Nuts
Beans, legumes and nuts are naturally gluten-free. Common varieties include:
– Beans: Black, pinto, kidney, cannellini, chickpeas, lentils
– Legumes: Peas, peanuts, soybeans
– Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews
These foods are packed with plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Studies show that eating beans and legumes can help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and reduce blood pressure and heart disease risk. Nuts are also associated with a reduced risk of heart disease when eaten in moderation. Beans, legumes and nuts are versatile gluten-free ingredients that can be enjoyed in salads, soups, dips, spreads and more.
When purchasing packaged beans, legumes and nuts, check labels to confirm no sources of gluten were added during processing. For example, some roasted nuts may have flavorings that contain gluten. But plain unseasoned nuts are a gluten-free food.
Meat, Poultry, Fish and Eggs
Fresh meat, poultry, fish and eggs are naturally gluten-free. This includes foods like:
– Beef, pork, chicken, turkey
– Fish like salmon, tuna, tilapia and shrimp
These foods are excellent sources of protein, B vitamins, iron, zinc and other important nutrients. There is some evidence that eating fish regularly protects heart health and benefits brain function. Eggs also contain antioxidants that can promote eye health.
As with produce, check the labels on packaged and processed meats, poultry and fish products. Beef jerky, cold cuts and canned tuna, for example, may contain gluten as an additive. Your safest bet is to stick to fresh or frozen unseasoned cuts of meat and poultry and plain fresh fish fillets or shrimp.
5 More Gluten-Free Food Groups
In addition to fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, meat, fish and eggs, there are several other food groups that are naturally gluten-free:
Milk, plain yogurt, cheeses and cottage cheese do not contain gluten. Make sure to choose unflavored, unsweetened varieties. Avoid dairy products that have added ingredients like cereal grains, cookies or candy pieces that may contain sources of gluten.
There are many gluten-free grains available for those on a gluten-free diet, including:
– Wild rice
– Nut flours like almond flour
These grains provide fiber, B vitamins, iron and magnesium. Look for certified gluten-free oats if you wish to include oatmeal in your diet. Avoid wheat, barley and rye. Read labels on packaged grains closely.
Fats and Oils
Plant-based fats and oils like olive oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil, avocado oil and nut oils are gluten-free. Some varieties of margarine and non-dairy creamers that contain added ingredients may contain gluten. Whenever possible, choose plain, unflavored oils.
Herbs, Spices and Condiments
All fresh and dried herbs like parsley, basil, oregano, thyme and spices like pepper, cinnamon and rosemary are gluten-free. Some condiments like mustard, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, tamari and balsamic vinegar are also gluten-free. Double check soy sauce for gluten content. Avoid condiments and seasonings that contain wheat, barley or rye.
Plain water, carbonated water, tea, coffee, juice from gluten-free fruits/veggies and unflavored milk/nut milks do not contain gluten. Wine and distilled alcohols like vodka, gin and rum are gluten-free. Avoid grain-based beverages like beer, ales, lagers and malt beverages made from gluten sources.
Reading Ingredient Labels
When purchasing packaged and processed foods, reading the ingredient list is important. Here are some tips:
– Look for the words “gluten-free” clearly listed – this indicates items that contain less than 20ppm gluten.
– Avoid any ingredients like wheat, barley, rye, malt, brewer’s yeast and oats (unless certified gluten-free).
– Watch out for ambiguous ingredients like “starch”, “natural flavors” or “spices” that could potentially contain gluten. Call the manufacturer to find out the source.
– Be wary of cross-contamination. Some companies make both gluten and gluten-free foods in the same facility. Look for special labels indicating the product was made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.
– When dining out, ask about preparation methods and possible cross-contamination of gluten-free dishes. Ask lots of questions to eat safely.
Sample Gluten-Free Weekly Meal Plan
Here is a sample one week meal plan featuring diverse gluten-free foods:
Eating gluten-free is easy and rewarding with naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. With some adjustments to watch out for hidden gluten sources, you can enjoy a healthy, delicious gluten-free diet. Focus on eating lean proteins, produce, and naturally gluten-free whole grains for the healthiest meal plan.