Everyone is worried about being healthy, keeping fit, whole foods, and dieting. On that list of famous diets is the gluten free foods. But what exactly is gluten and what are the effects of indulging in gluten foods? Gluten is a protein that is common in cereal crops that include wheat, barley, rye and trirticale. It is a protein that binds the cereal structure thus giving it its shape. These are ingredients that constitute a large fraction of the foods that we eat ranging from bread, pasta, tortillas, cakes, cookies, beer, gravy, sauces, soups, and the list goes on and on! Now you might have gotten the picture as to exactly how hard it is to avoid gluten. Hard as it may be it is not entirely an impossible feat.

There are great number of foods, sweet and savoury that can quite easily replace gluten. While this may largely include entirely avoiding the very ingredients that contain gluten, it doesn’t mean a boring plate. While it can hide in a lot of the ingredients that are available a basic rule of thumb is to avoid processed foods first and foremost. Next fill your grocery basket with lots of vegetables and fruit. These will keep that sweet tooth occupied so when your cravings for cookies hit, have strawberries and bananas instead. Now for the hardest part, replace the carbs with other whole grains. These would include rice, flax, amaranth, soy, teff, quinoa, corn, and buckwheat. The list is long, but clearly this already caters for all our baking and pastry needs.

While whole sweet fruits are most recommended, one should be extra cautious of apricots, mangoes, melons, papaya, prunes, and pineapple. Ensure that these along with the fore mentioned grains are used with minimal processing if any. For proteins, legumes and nuts are the most preferred source. Most dairy products as well as fresh eggs and meat that has not been batter-coated are excellent gluten free alternatives. Beer may be off this list but red wine easily replaces beer. For that sweet kick in pastries and even teas and coffee, gluten free solutions are available in dark chocolate and sweeteners such as stevia which is not only gluten free but also low in calories. Call it killing two birds with one stone.

While considering to delve into the gluten free foods zone may seem easy, it’s possible to still indulge in it unknowingly. While potatoes and potato flour are safe, it is present in flavored potato chips. Therefore avoid the following foods; soy sauce, soups and sauces containing thickeners, condiments that are not from fresh blend spices, seitan commonly known as vegan meat, coffee substitutes, pickles, hot dogs and other processed meat products.

The secret is to be able to discern the four sources, avoid them and keep an eye open for the less conspicuous culprits. Gluten has been linked to various ailments and disorders with irritable bowel syndrome being top on that list. Stay healthy.