A key component to managing celiac disease is to follow a specific diet. Someone diagnosed with celiac disease should follow a gluten-free diet to avoid symptoms. Although complying with a gluten-free diet can be challenging, there are many gluten-free options now.
So, what is a celiac disease diet? It’s basically a gluten-free diet. Simple as that!
This diet manages symptoms, improves nutrient absorption, and prevents damage to the small bowel tissue. A gluten-free diet can also prevent complications like infertility, osteoporosis, and cancer.
What are the best foods to eat and which foods irritate celiac disease and you should avoid? Let’s dive in.
Foods You Can Eat on the Celiac Diet
The food we consume directly affects the health of our gut. Eating a variety of foods is important to keep our gut flora and overall digestive tract healthy.
Just because the celiac disease diet is gluten-free doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy food. Below are the main categories of food to include in your diet.
Meat & Protein
It’s important to have a good amount of protein in your diet. Many people with celiac disease have low protein levels. Try to add meats like beef, chicken, lamb, game, and turkey.
Fish, seafood, and eggs are also excellent sources of protein. You can also consume some dairy products. Be careful, though, as some may irritate your digestive tract. More on that later, though.
It’s important to add some healthy fats to your daily diet. Healthy fats include oils like avocado, coconut, and olive. Choose these over-processed oils and margarine.
Nuts are also great sources of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The best to choose from include almonds, walnuts, and cashews. Seeds like flax, hemp, and pumpkin are also great options.
Fruits and Vegetables
Enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables of all colors. These can be fresh, frozen, or dried. Herbs and spices are also important to flavor your meals while cooking.
Legumes like beans, lentils, and peas provide protein, fiber, and micronutrients. To avoid bloating and digestive upset, eat them in small quantities. Soak beans in water with ginger overnight or pressure cook them for best results.
Gluten-Free Cereals and Grains
Make sure the grains you’re consuming are gluten-free. The best options to choose include quinoa, millet, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice.
There are gluten-free options for your favorite grains like bread and pasta. Be sure to look for the labels while at the grocery store.
You can also find gluten-free substitutes such as pasta made from chickpeas, beans, or shirataki noodles.
How You Eat
The way you eat is also an important factor in the celiac disease diet. If you’re stressed or watching television, avoid eating at these times. Stop eating four hours before bedtime so you have enough time to digest and sleep well. Stay well hydrated and avoid drinking excess coffee or alcohol.
Foods to Avoid on the Celiac Diet
Anything that contains gluten can trigger inflammation and cause celiac symptoms. It can also damage the small bowel and lead to complications. These are some of the most common foods you should avoid on the celiac diet.
Gluten is a natural ingredient found in grains. The grains that contain gluten include:
It’s important to avoid these grains and products that include them. For example, bakery products and mixes, cereal, bread, and pasta contain gluten. Other grains may be cross-contaminated with the above grains during storage and preparation.
Alcoholic beverages like beer, malt drinks, and some liquors also contain gluten.
Many artificial additives, colors, and preservatives contain gluten. Packaged foods and some canned, frozen, and prepared food contain additives with gluten. Some examples of food with artificial gluten ingredients include:
How can you be sure your food does not contain gluten? Firstly, try to avoid processed, canned, frozen, or prepared foods. Instead, cook at home from wholesome foods.
If you buy already prepared foods, look for a “gluten-free” label. Make sure to always tell waiters at restaurants you need gluten-free meals. When in doubt of a meal being gluten-free, do not eat it.
Gluten-Free Products That May Still Cause Problems
Unfortunately, the celiac disease diet isn’t always perfect. There are some gluten-free products that can still cause symptoms.
Oats are often contaminated with wheat. However, there are gluten-free oats available. There is evidence from the Celiac Disease Foundation that even gluten-free oats may cause problems. This is because a protein called avenin shares similarities with gluten. Try to eliminate oats from your diet and see how you feel.
Cow’s dairy may also cause problems. Some believe it’s because of the lactose component. Others believe the casein A1 from cow’s milk is responsible for causing symptoms.
Lactose intolerance is a well-documented complication of celiac disease. Many people with gluten sensitivity and intolerance also have trouble digesting it. Some choose to avoid cow’s dairy and opt for goat, buffalo, or sheep instead. Others choose lactose-free dairy while some remove dairy from their diet altogether.