Over the last 20 years, gluten free diets have grown in popularity. Many people follow this diet after a medical diagnosis such as coeliac disease. Others may do so if they find an improvement in overall health or specific symptoms as a result of removing gluten from the diet.
Sue Baic is a registered dietitian (as seen on the store tour video) and regularly support clients who require a gluten free diet.
Coeliac disease affects 1% of the UK population. It is an autoimmune condition causing a life-long intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and contaminated oats.
Symptoms can include:
- abdominal pain
Less-common symptoms can include:
- joint pain
The only treatment for coeliac disease is to strictly follow a gluten free diet, which will relieve these symptoms and reduce the risk of serious long term health complications.
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is a more recently recognised condition. Sufferers often have similar symptoms to coeliac disease. However, unlike coeliac disease, there are currently no objective tests for diagnosis.
A guide to gluten free food shopping
For those on a gluten free diet, the weekly shopping trip can be a daunting prospect. However, supermarkets are offering an ever-widening range of suitable foods.
- The fresh produce sections have lots of naturally gluten free foods. For example all fresh fruit and vegetables as well as canned, frozen or dried fruit are gluten free. These provide a great source of essential nutrients such as fibre – a nutrient that can be low in a gluten free diet. Products with added seasonings, coatings or in sauces may contain gluten, so always check the label on processed products.
- Dairy foods are a great source of protein and calcium and are also naturally gluten free. People with coeliac disease should aim for 3 portions of calcium-rich foods every day. Examples include milk, cheese or yogurts. Calcium enriched dairy-free alternatives, such as those based on soya or nuts are also useful. Avoid yogurts with added biscuit or cereal toppings as these are likely to contain wheat.
- Unprocessed meat and fish are also naturally gluten free and are an important source of protein, vitamins and minerals such as iron.
For vegetarians: beans, lentils, pulses, eggs, nuts and seeds are naturally gluten free source of these nutrients.
Avoid meat or fish in batter or bread crumb coatings. Read the labels carefully for meat or fish in ready-prepared sauces or marinades - it’s possible that wheat flour may have been used as a thickener. Some processed meat products like sausages may also contain wheat, and burgers may contain bread crumbs - so be careful. Gluten free options are usually available in most supermarkets.
All pre-packed foods that include gluten-containing grains, no matter how small the quantity, must state this on the ingredients list. You’ll see them highlighted, often in bold or italic writing. Remember - Gluten-containing grains include wheat, rye, barley and contaminated oats, so look out for these in particular. Some foods may also provide an allergy advice box to direct consumers to the ingredients list for allergen information, although this is not mandatory.
In addition, some products carry a ‘may contain’ warning. This is where manufacturers provide information about potential cross-contamination with allergens not directly added to the product. Always take these warnings seriously. If you’re unsure about the potential risk of eating a food that may have been contaminated with gluten, check with the manufacturer or the national patient charity, Coeliac UK.
Wheat flour is used to make:
- breakfast cereals
The good news is that the demand for gluten free options has driven new product development so for most of these foods there is now a gluten free option available.
Free From section
This area in most supermarkets has certainly increased in size over the last few years. Products labelled specifically as ‘gluten free’ must comply with strict regulations regarding the levels of gluten in the product. It must be less than 20 parts per million, but in most cases the true level is actually well below that. As with mainstream products, gluten free products vary widely in taste and nutrition so you may prefer to try out a number of different brands to see which one suits you best. The nutritional table on the back of pack can help you to compare different products.
Gluten free oat products can also be found in this free-from section. Oats do not contain gluten, but they do contain a similar protein known as avenin. If you decide to include oats within your gluten free diet, always ensure that the products you select are specifically labelled as gluten free. Oats are a good source of fibre and many other essential nutrients.
We hope you’ve found this video useful. There’s plenty of support available online if you need to follow a gluten free diet but if you need anything else, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly careline or via our social channels.