Dietitian Q & A: Everything You Need to Know About Gluten-Free
May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to learn more about celiac disease and what it means to follow a gluten-free diet. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are two conditions that are more common than many people realize. Some individuals may not even know that they have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Whether you have been recently diagnosed yourself or you know someone who has celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, it is good to learn more so that you can live a healthy life or help someone else do the same.
Hy-Vee registered dietitians are here to answer some of your top celiac disease and gluten-free questions!
What is the difference between celiac disease and gluten intolerance? Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which when a person eats gluten the body responds in an inappropriate way that causes damage to the small intestine. Someone who has a gluten intolerance may experience many of the same symptoms as someone with celiac disease, but there is no damage that occurs in the small intestine. In addition, someone who has celiac disease must avoid even the smallest amount of gluten for their entire life. Someone who has a gluten intolerance may actually tolerate various amounts of gluten and their intolerance may resolve or change over time.
What is gluten and what does it mean to follow a gluten-free diet? Gluten is the protein component in the grains wheat, barley and rye. When following a gluten-free diet all of these grains and any component or derivative of them must be avoided. For individuals with celiac disease, cross contamination is also a concern. Therefore, regular oats are often avoided because of their high risk of cross contamination. In addition, keeping a clean kitchen and sometimes having separate cooking implements may be necessary. It is important to learn how to read labels properly and take care when eating food prepared outside of the home.
Are there any nutrients to pay closer attention to when following a gluten-free diet? Any dietary restrictions, including gluten, can put individuals at greater risk of certain nutrient deficiencies. Many gluten-free baked products can be lower in fiber content than the gluten products they are meant to replace. Focusing on including other high-fiber foods that are naturally gluten-free is a good way to counteract this lack of fiber in the baked goods. Other nutrients to pay attention to are vitamins D, B12 and folate. Including a variety of fish, dairy and legumes in the diet can help increase the consumption of these nutrients, as well as others, in a naturally gluten-free way.
What resources are there available to help with a transition to a gluten-free diet? Navigating any dietary restrictions can be overwhelming, especially when you are just starting out. If you or someone you know are transitioning to a gluten-free diet, we recommend taking advantage of any resources available. The dietitians at Hy-Vee also offer a variety of programs to support individuals following a gluten-free diet, including complimentary group and 1:1 gluten-free grocery store tours. To get even more individualized help you can also schedule a nutrition consultation with your local Hy-Vee dietitian.
When following a gluten-free diet, just know that you are not alone. Many people are also going through similar struggles, and Hy-Vee is here to make your transition easier. Visit our new WholeLotta Good website, wholelotta.com, to easily shop our gluten-free collection and have your favorite products shipped right to your door. Need help with meal prep? Attend one of our virtual Freezer Meal Prep Workshops; just contact the dietitian hosting the class to get your easy gluten-free substitutions. You can always contact your local Hy-Vee dietitian for more ideas to help you live gluten-free with confidence.
Stay tuned to our blog for a tasty gluten free pasta recipe from Hy-Vee!