Decoding the gluten-free diet: what you need to look out for
Dieting trends come and go, but one that is here to stay is the removal of gluten from all things yummy. While only one in 70 suffer from coeliac disease, a whopping 30% of Australians are reducing their intake of gluten by choice due to the benefits this brings to their digestive systems (goodbye bloating!) However, as with all good things in life, the gluten free diet comes with its downfalls. Dietitian and culinary nutritionist for The Food Crafters and Healthy Home Cafe, Caroline Trickey shares her tips for how to make the most of wheat-free eating.
Mastering the gluten-free diet begins with making smarter decisions in your shopping cart, starting with understanding your calories. "Many gluten-free products contain ingredients that are high GI and have empty calories," explains Trickey. The term empty calorie can be a confusing one. Many believe this to mean food that does not provide energy or calories, which is completely false; empty calorie foods often do supply energy, only this energy has no nutritional value, which means you are consuming calories without any health benefits. Trickey explains: "When you consume high GI, empty calorie foods, it is quickly converted into sugar which can easily be stored as fat, and ultimately lead to weight gain."
Gluten-free products contain replacement ingredients are often processed and use much higher GI, "they also often include emulsifiers and stabilisers to enhance texture and flavour" says Trickey, who suggests avoiding products with ingredients that you do not recognise as food, such as scientific names or numbers. "Use the nutritional label as your ultimate guide," says Trickey. Her tip is to look for foods that contain coconut flour, almond meal and buckwheat. From here you can check the nutritional information panel to compare sodium and fibre content per 100g.
Finally, health comes first: "Anyone who follows a gluten-free diet, regardless of whether you have Coeliac disease, gluten-sensitivities or not, I encourage you to keep your health top of mind," says Trickey." Be super-vigilant when selecting convenience packaged products and choose wisely."
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