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A gluten-free diet

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Have you been diagnosed with celiac disease? If so, your first reaction may have been, “Oh, no — I’ll never be able to enjoy food again.” That’s because celiac disease is basically an allergy to gluten — a protein that is seemingly everywhere. Gluten is commonly found in rye, barley and wheat — and wheat is an ingredient in many food products besides the obvious breads and pastas.

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that damages the small intestine and can lead to malnutrition. Other complications of celiac disease can include reduced bone density, anemia, infertility and neurological problems.

There is no cure for celiac disease, so eliminating gluten from your diet is the only way to manage the disorder. But living gluten-free doesn’t have to mean a life of boring, tasteless meals.

Focus on the positive

OK — wheat, barley and rye are off limits, but there’s still a world of great foods to choose from: fruits, vegetables, meats and most dairy products.

And no, you don’t have to give up breads and pastas — just make sure they’re made from grains that do not contain gluten. You have plenty to choose from: corn, buckwheat, millet, quinoa and oats, to name a few.

The beauty of a gluten-free diet is that you’ll consume a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich whole grains — foods that everybody should be eating more of because they provide fiber and B vitamins.

Foods to enjoy

As you shop the grocery aisles, it’s important to read food labels thoroughly to make sure that the food contains no gluten. It’s equally important to keep in mind all the great foods you can still enjoy:

  • Meat products — unprocessed meat, fish, chicken, bacon, ham off the bone and meats that are frozen or canned (without sauces)
  • Dairy products — eggs, whole milk, lowfat milk, evaporated and condensed milk, fresh cream, processed or block cheese and some custards and soymilks
  • Fruits and vegetables — fresh, canned or frozen (without sauces); fruit juices; nuts and peanut butter
  • Cereal and baking products — corn flour, soya flour, rice flour, buckwheat, millet, corn- or rice-based breakfast cereals that contain no malt extract
  • Breads, cakes and biscuits — most rice crackers, corn cakes, rice crisp breads, corn tortillas and corn taco shells
  • Pasta and noodles — gluten-free pasta, rice noodles, rice or bean vermicelli
  • Condiments — tomato paste, tahini (ground sesame seeds), jams, honey, maple syrup, cocoa, vinegars (except malt), some sauces and salad dressings
  • Snacks — corn chips, popcorn and plain chocolate
  • Drinks — tea, coffee, mineral water, wine, spirits and liqueurs

A gluten-free diet may seem challenging at first, but you’ll soon discover new tastes and textures in the many grains that you can safely eat. You will also be mixing and matching those new flavors with your favorite meat and dairy products to make delicious meals.

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If you have dietary restrictions and/or allergies, always read the ingredient list carefully for all food products prior to consumption. If the ingredient list is not available on the food product, check with the food manufacturer, or do not consume the product.

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