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What A Gluten-Free Diet Is, How to Start One & Easy Recipes

Author: Renu Puri

Date: 18-01-2023

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News flashes of big celebrities hopping on to different diets have left people in awe. Oftentimes, people are acquainted with the terminology of the diet but not what the actual diet entails, how it came to be, and the benefits associated. A gluten-free diet is also one of the popular diet regimens that has gained a lot of popularity in recent times. 


This blog will tell you what gluten is, what it means to be on a gluten-free diet, all about Celiac disease and gluten intolerance, the benefits of the diet, types of foods you can eat, some mouthwatering gluten-free recipes along with a brief on who would be an ideal candidate for this diet. 


Introduction


“I don’t even think she knows what gluten is. I don’t, do you? Does anybody?”, If you laughed till you dropped on this viral meme from a clip of Keeping up with the Kardashians, you’re sure to get some really insightful information on what gluten is and how the word “gluten-free” came to be.


The word “Gluten-free” has become an idiomatic expression for royalty and poise. In fact, with all the hype and buildup attached to the word, the benefits and significance of the diet are often undermined. This is because a lot of folks think that this diet is only for the “elite” but it is purely a misconception and far from the truth. Anyone can adopt a gluten-free lifestyle change, be it for medical reasons or just to maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Go to any grocery store, coffee shop, or just a food joint, you will see that they have many delicious gluten-free food options. Celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, Jessica Alba, Shilpa Shetty, Shamita Shetty, Esha Gupta, and many others have sworn by the effects of the diet and followed a dedicated gluten-free regime.


What exactly is gluten?


In order to understand what the gluten-free diet entails, you would first have to know what gluten is. Gluten is a generic name for the proteins found in wheat, wheat derivatives, rye, barley, and triticale. Gluten bonds the food together, ensuring that the grain stays firm and does not lose its shape. It is also the key ingredient in many sorts of foods, even the ones that we least expected it from. A good example to illustrate what gluten does would be to think of someone flattening out a Roti with the help of a belan, if the gluten would not bind the grain together, it would tear easily.


Cross-contamination can also cause gluten-free products to accumulate some percentage of gluten. Sometimes, gluten-free grains like Buckwheat and Quinoa get processed in the same factory as gluten and ultimately end up losing their properties. That is why it is very important to buy gluten-free products from trusted brands that have separate facilities to process their gluten-free food.


What is a gluten-free diet?



A gluten-free diet is simple, it involves excluding and avoiding foods that contain gluten. There is a huge misconception that gluten-free also means keto, as they speculate both contain little to no carbs in the diet but it is not the case. Many gluten-free foods contain loads of carbs.


Although the gluten-free diet has created a wave for health-conscious people, there are a lot of medical benefits associated with the diet too that are often overlooked. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered when one consumes gluten and could pose a serious health condition if not treated timely. When someone suffering from Celiac disease consumes gluten, their body gives out a highly sensitive response to protein causing damage to the Villi (outward projections in the small intestines). When your villi gets damaged, the secretion and absorption process of the small intestine gets hampered. Thus resulting in conditions like malnutrition, miscarriages, low bone density, and in worst-case scenarios – infertility.


The worst part is that most of the people suffering from Celiac disease don’t even know that they have it. Please know that Celiac disease and gluten intolerance/gluten sensitivity are not the same things. This is another misconception that people blindly believe. The key differentiating factor is that gluten damages the Villi in the small intestines of people suffering from Celiac disease. Although people with gluten intolerance may exhibit some of the same symptoms, their immune response does not cause any damage to the small intestine.


Celiac disease symptoms : 


If you suspect that you may have Celiac disease or feel like you exhibit some of these symptoms, it would be best to consult a medical professional followed by a certified nutritionist. Keep in mind that symptoms may depend from person to person. A lot of people may be asymptomatic while others may experience many symptoms. Some common signs and symptoms of Celiac disease are:-


1) Diarrhea or Loose stools


Chronic loose watery stools are one of the prime indicators of Celiac. This is the symptom that a lot of people experience before the medical diagnosis. To curb this condition, a gluten-free diet is recommended by doctors and certified nutritionists.


2) Flatulence and Bloating


Flatulence is a common digestive problem seen in people with Celiac disease. And with flatulence comes bloating and other digestive problems. In some cases, untreated Celiac may lead to worsened symptoms like stomach pain, fatigue, and irritable bowel syndrome.


3) Weight Loss


Along with multiple symptoms of Celiac, if you’re losing weight rapidly and can’t seem to figure out why – you may have Celiac. This happens because it hinders your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients thereby leading to malnutrition and extreme weight loss.


4) Chronic Fatigue


Constantly feeling tired and exhausted are very common symptoms in people suffering from Celiac. It does not matter how much you sleep, but you will wake up feeling fatigued. After Diarrhea, this is the most common symptom of Celiac disease.


5) Anemia


Since it impairs the nutrient absorption and secretion process of the body, it leads to anemia – a condition caused by a lack of red blood cells in the body. Anemia is present in more than 40% of people with Celiac.


To get gluten allergy testing done or to find out if you have celiac or not, you can either opt for a comprehensive blood test that would find and track antibodies and their interactions with gluten or go with a biopsy from small intestines to check for damage.


Can I adopt a Gluten-free lifestyle?


Gluten is omnipresent in a typical Indian diet since all of our pakoras, parathas, halwas, namkeens and other scrumptious dishes are all gluten-containing foods. Starting a gluten-free diet is a lifestyle choice that requires quite a lot of commitment. I remember a couple of months back when our “now” client Nikita came to us to fix her diet and lifestyle. She wanted to adopt the gluten-free lifestyle as she was trying to lose weight for her sisters’ marriage. Upon medical evaluation, it was discovered that she does not suffer from Celiac so that was ruled out right off the bat. Although, she did suffer from gluten sensitivity. This is when her doctor recommended niwi.ai to her and she came to us for a diet consultation. We always get this question in our DM’s “is it easy?” “Would I be able to do it?”, and we always have the same answer. 


Let’s get this straight, no diet is easy, especially in the beginning. If you have eaten wheat all your life and suddenly quit it to improve your health, it will have a learning curve. You will have to unlearn what you know and teach yourself the right eating habits. A lot of times people who follow the gluten-free route, in social situations unintentionally, may take a nacho or two from the nacho plate without realizing that they are eating gluten. It’s an honest mistake and you can’t blame the person but it often happens. The only way to get used to a gluten-free lifestyle is to give it time and always be educated on what to eat and what not to eat. 


Everybody is different and has different dietary requirements. What may work for Shilpa Shetty in her gluten-free journey may not necessarily work for you. A gluten-free diet also may or may not work for you. So, if you want to find out if you can adopt a gluten-free diet, we recommend consulting a registered dietitian who can evaluate your body type, health conditions, activity level, genetics, etc, and prepare a customized gluten-free meal plan for you to reach your health goals with the diet.


Benefits of a gluten-free diet 


Gluten is present in a lot of things. And when we say a lot … we truly mean A LOT! It could be hiding in your shampoo, the chip packet in your pantry, or even in your go-to condiment. While reading lengthy labels before buying groceries may not sound very appealing, it will be very beneficial for your health in the long haul. 


If you are on the edge about going forward with a gluten-free diet or not, read on the benefits. 


1) High energy levels


One of the things a lot of people observe after eating gluten-heavy food is that they start feeling lethargic or fatigued. This may be a sign of gluten sensitivity. In India, we joke about feeling sleepy after having foods like Chole bhature or Aloo paratha but we never question the reasoning behind it – The culprit is gluten. If you opt for gluten-free options, you will notice that you don’t feel groggy or cranky anymore. Furthermore, you will feel like you can conquer the world with that zeal and zest. 


2) Reduced inflammation


Gluten causes inflammation and a spike can oftentimes trigger an abnormal immune reaction. If you consume a lot of gluten, you would experience high levels of inflammation that ultimately contribute to joint pains. A gluten-free diet can ensure that there is no unwanted inflammation and that your body functions properly. 


3) Lesser headaches


There have been multiple studies validating claims that there is a close connection between gut health and the brain. People with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance experience excruciating headaches on a very frequent basis. Going on a gluten-free diet has shown a steep decrease in headaches, migraines, and other types of pain.


4) Better mental health


People with Celiac and gluten intolerance are more likely to suffer from mental conditions like depression and anxiety. The gluten-free diet has shown great effects on the overall mental health of a person and is proven to enhance a person’s overall quality of life.


5) Improved hair and skin


Following a gluten-free diet improves skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, and even rashes. The nutrition deficiency in Celiac patients also contributes to hair thinning, hair loss, and bad hair texture.



Gluten-free food list: -


  1. Fruits, Vegetables, Eggs.
  2. Unprocessed seeds and nuts.
  3. Non-processed meats.
  4. Some low-fat dairy products. 


Gluten-free grain list: - 


  1. Tapioca.
  2. Millet.
  3. Quinoa.
  4. Flax.
  5. Buckwheat.
  6. Corn.
  7. Rice.
  8. Soy.
  9. Bean flour.
  10. Arrowroot.
  11. Sorghum flour.


Grains to avoid: -


  1. Wheat.
  2. Rye.
  3. Barley.
  4. Triticale.


3 quick gluten-free healthy recipes that you need to try! 



1) Healthy tapioca (sabudana) khichdi


Ingredients: 


1 cup tapioca (sabudana)

2.5 cup water

0.5 cup peanuts

1 tbsp cumin

Salt to taste

2 tbsp ghee


Tapioca is filled with carbs and proteins that come from peanuts. It is great for gut health and super low in calories, meaning you can indulge in a tasteful meal without any guilt. Try this delicious gluten-free meal that will surely leave you begging for more!


Soak tapioca (sabudana) in water preferably overnight. Next day, soak off the excess water and glaze your pan with oil. Once warm, add 1/2 cup peanuts to the pan and mix it on a medium flame for 2-3 minutes. When it starts turning brown, turn off the flame and put the peanuts in a mixer, leave it to cool, and blend it. Mix the crushed peanuts in the tapioca and mix well. Heat a thick bottom pan, add 2 tbsp ghee and wait for the sizzle. Add cumin and let it fry for 1 minute. Add green chilies and mix well. Put the sabudana and peanut mixture in the thick bottom pan and mix well. Cook for 4-5 minutes on medium flame and add salt according to your taste. Your healthy gluten-free sabudana khichdi is ready to be served!


2) Egg bhurji


4 Eggs

2 tbsp cooking oil

½ tbsp cumin

4 medium size onion – finely cut

3 green chillies

1 tbsp ginger garlic paste

Salt to taste

¼ haldi powder

1 red chili powder

¼ garam Masala

1 tbsp dhania powder



Take 2 tbsp cooking oil in a pan, add 1/2 tbsp cumin and mix it with 4 finely cut onions. Let it cook till the onions become golden brown. Add 3 finely cut chilies, 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste, salt to taste, ¼ tbsp haldi powder, 1 tbsp red chili powder, 1/4th garam masala, and 1 tbsp dhania powder. Stir the ingredients and mix well. Cook for 4 minutes and voila! Your Mumbai-style gluten-free egg bhurji is ready!


3) Kala chana chaat


1 cup black chana

Salt to taste

2 medium-sized potatoes

2 medium-sized tomatoes

2 medium-sized onions

1 tbsp ginger

1 green chilly



Boil 1 cup black chana in a pressure cooker with 1/2 tbsp salt. Drain the water completely. Boil 2 medium-sized potatoes, mash them, and mix them with the boiled chana. Then, add 2 chopped tomatoes and 2 chopped onions and mix well. Grate ginger and put 1 tbsp of it into the mixture along with 1 finely chopped green chili. Top it with salt to taste and 1/2 tbsp chaat masala, ¼ tbsp jeera powder, 1/2 tbsp red chili powder, and mint leaves. Mix it well to make sure the spices are spread evenly. Your gluten-free kala chana chaat is ready. 


Life is sweet without wheat…



If you’re looking to follow a gluten-free diet meal plan, we believe the best way to find out if it would be suited for you is through professional guidance. Our registered dietitians at niwi.ai have guided a lot of aspiring gluten-free dieters like you to a fulfilling journey.  


Ready for a health revolution? Join us on our mission to transform the nutrition landscape!


For any queries, Write to us at info@niwi.ai or call us at +91-8800874676.


At niwi.ai, we have helped thousands of clients transform their lives and feel stronger, more energetic, and definitely more confident in how they look and feel, by improving their relationship with food!

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