Our diet can have a profound effect on our health and wellness. To eat healthy without gluten and dairy is not just a diet for people with coeliac disease or an intolerance to these food items. There are many benefits associated with this dietary choice, including weight loss and improved energy levels.
It is actually quite easy to make this dietary choice because there are plenty of gluten-free options available in most supermarkets, health food stores, restaurants, and cafes.
What is Gluten?
What is gluten? Gluten is the general name for a composite of sticky proteins found in certain grains which are commonly used in many food products. It is often used as a binding agent to add elasticity to baked goods and thickening sauces.
Gluten is harmful to people who have coeliac disease or other gluten sensitivities because it damages the small intestines. It also irritates any part of the digestive system and can cause diarrhoea or other digestive upsets. It can also lead to malnutrition from causing damage to the intestinal lining, resulting in the sufferer not absorbing nutrients well and causing vitamin deficiencies.
What grains contain gluten?
Grains that contain gluten are wheat, barley, rye, spelt and triticale. Grains such as corn, rice, quinoa and millet do not have gluten in them. There tends to be confusion with oats, which contain a protein strain similar to the proteins found in wheat, barley and rye called avenin. Oats are also prone to cross-contamination with gluten-containing cereals, including wheat, barley and rye. If you’ve ever seen products or recipes like ‘gluten-free oats’ or ‘gluten-free cookies’, this refers to oats that have been grown and processed without coming into contact with these cereals. For people with coeliac disease, oats often produce the same symptoms in their digestive tracts as do the gluten-containing grains.
The Effects of Gluten on the Body
While gluten is typically seen as a food source that is healthy and nutritious, there are many people who do not have the same experience. There are many side effects from consuming gluten. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity or intolerance can include gas, bloating, fatigue, headache, brain fog and weight loss. Some people may be diagnosed with coeliac disease which is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the small intestine after eating gluten. This inflammation can lead to heavy metal poisoning and an inability to properly absorb nutrients from food. Others just get stomachaches or other symptoms like diarrhoea when they consume gluten. Regardless of the side effects, it’s important for everyone to understand what they’re putting into their bodies.
Eat Healthy Without Gluten and Dairy by Replacing those products in your home
For those who suffer from gluten sensitivities and/or coeliac disease, it’s challenging to completely identify products that have a gluten content. This is because labelling regulations for food packaging worldwide are inconsistent and unclear. In Australia, there are regulations for prepackaged goods to identify allergens and ingredients, while food that is served in restaurants or takeaways must-have ingredient lists available for those who ask.
Gluten-containing products are everywhere. You find them in bread, crackers, cookies, cereals, sauces and many other foods that we consume on a regular basis. If you have a gluten intolerance or allergy, you may wish to get rid of these gluten-containing products from your home so that you can avoid gluten exposure.
Gluten-free food alternatives are becoming more available now as awareness grows about the health risks of eating gluten. The market for gluten-free products has grown exponentially in the past few years.
One way to tell if a product is gluten-free is by scanning the label for phrases like gluten-free or no gluten. Always check the ingredients list for any mention of wheat, barley, rye, soy sauce, thickener, or rye flour. The label may also say “gluten removed.”
Gluten can be found in many foods that you might not suspect, such as many types of soy sauce, some types of vinegar, and even some yogurts and salad dressings!
Ingredients That Always Contain Gluten
The following terms represent ingredients that always contain gluten:
Hydrolysed wheat protein/wheat protein
Wheat starch/hydrolysed wheat starch
Wheat flour/bread flour/bleached flour
Bulgur or cracked wheat
Malt: Made from barley
Couscous: Made from wheat
Farina: Made from wheat
Pasta: Made from wheat unless otherwise indicated
Seitan: Made from wheat gluten and commonly used in vegetarian meals
Wheat or barley grass: Can often be cross-contaminated
Wheat germ oil or extract: Can often be cross-contaminated
Ingredients That May Contain Gluten
You’ll need to check with the manufacturer to find out for certain whether or not a food that includes one or more of these ingredients are safe for your gluten-free diet:
Vegetable protein/hydrolysed vegetable protein: Can come from wheat, corn or soy
Modified starch/modified food starch: Can come from several sources, including wheat
Natural flavour/ing: Can come from barley
Artificial flavour/ing: Can come from barley
Modified food starch
Hydrolysed plant protein (HPP)
Hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP)
Seasonings: May contain wheat fillers
Flavourings: May contain wheat fillers
Vegetable starch: May contain wheat fillers
Dextrin and maltodextrin: Both are sometimes made from wheat.
To be super careful and avoid any side effects, employ the fail-safe warning … “If in doubt, leave it out!”
Choosing Dairy-Free Foods for your Basic Diet
Humans are the only animals that are unable to digest cows milk. We are not designed to digest milk from other animals. We have evolved to be able to digest milk from our own species, but not the milk of any other animal. This is because we lack the enzyme lactase to break it down. With no lactase, milk cannot be broken down into smaller molecules that can be digested by the body.
Undigested cow’s milk proteins can cause inflammation in the body, which is what triggers an allergic reaction. The main culprits are beta-lactoglobulin and alpha-lactalbumin. These two proteins are usually found in higher concentrations in cow’s milk. The inflammation can cause nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhoea, as well as upper respiratory and lung congestion.
What are dairy alternatives and what are the benefits?
Dairy alternatives are becoming increasingly popular as more people realise that there are more options out there besides cow or other animal milk. They’re typically made from plant-based ingredients like nuts and soybeans and are a healthy and sustainable alternative to dairy products because they don’t contain hormones, antibiotics, or other additives that can be found in many dairy products. The health benefits of dairy alternatives include less added sugar, fewer calories, and more fibre than many non-dairy beverages. Dairy alternatives also have less sodium than cow’s milk and are almost always fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Try replacing dairy in your diet with one or more of these vegan alternatives:
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
- Macadamia milk
- Coconut milk.
Of course, you also have the option to eliminate all milk from your diet, as you will get adequate nutrition from fresh vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and meat protein.
Whether you choose to go to plant-based milk products or eliminate them entirely from your diet will depend on what your body is telling you. You may find that plant-based milk alternatives have the same effect on your body as animal-based milk products. Stop, listen and respond to what your body is saying.
Eat Healthy Without Gluten and Dairy – Living Food Wise recipe collection
We’ve compiled a whole lot of recipes to help anyone wishing to eat healthy without gluten and dairy. You can search our recipes by categories or by keywords, and match them to your tastes and needs. Or visit our YouTube Channel where we post regular gluten free and dairy free recipe videos.