When gluten-free foods first started making their way onto the market, they were all, for the most part, healthy. This is because the foods were created by small companies who dedicated themselves to providing only the safest, healthiest foods for those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and other food allergies.
Now, here we are, over a decade later, and the gluten-free lifestyle has become mainstream. While that’s very good news for those who have been marginalized due to their special diet, it’s not such good news for our health.
Between the years of 2011 and 2013, the gluten-free food industry grew an incredible 44 percent! With demand far exceeding the supply some small shops could provide, large food manufacturers saw their opportunity to make a profit and dove headfirst into the business.
This resulted in not only a reduction of nutritional content, but an alarming increase in the number of additives, fillers, and preservatives in gluten-free foods.
In order to achieve and maintain good health on a special diet, it’s important to know how to choose the healthiest gluten-free foods.
Center Your Diet Around Naturally Gluten-Free Foods
The best way to make sure the gluten-free food you’re eating is as healthy as possible is to center your diet around naturally gluten-free foods. This means foods that need no processing to maintain their gluten-free status.
Organic meat, poultry, and fish are all naturally gluten-free foods, and they are filled with the healthy protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals your body needs to reduce your chronic inflammation. (When selecting fish, look for “wild caught” on the package, as it will not be labeled organic.)
Organic vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrition, and they should be a central figure in your diet. Especially dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens. Organic vegetables are packed with fiber, water, and the vitamins and minerals you need to support good health.
Peanuts have been linked to allergic inflammation, so I recommend avoiding them. However, nuts such as whole almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, and filberts are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and B vitamins, the latter of which have been shown to support neurological health.
When choosing beans, opt for organic, dry beans you can prepare at home. Kidney, garbanzo, black, pinto, navy, and butter beans are all excellent sources of folate, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, and fiber.
Another naturally gluten-free food is wild rice. It is high in fiber and packed with B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, nutrients someone with a condition that compromises their gut health may be deficient in.
This healthy, gluten-free grain is a good source of folate, thiamin, iron, and fiber. Before cooking quinoa, be sure to rinse it thoroughly to remove traces of saponin, a bitter-tasting chemical.
Always Read the List of Ingredients
When choosing gluten-free versions of common staple foods, carefully read the list of ingredients. This will help you avoid gluten-free junk food and ensure the food you’re eating is as rich in nutrients as possible.
You may have noticed that big-name pasta manufacturers now offer their own gluten-free options at a fraction of the price. However, this ability to cut costs often means sub-par nutritional value.
Purchase pasta made from whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa. Also, brands that contain flaxseed, nut flours, and rice bran give you the added benefit of healthy fats, which keeps you feeling fuller longer.
The healthiest gluten-free bread will have a whole grain listed as its first or second ingredient. Choose bread made with a variety of grains (such as amaranth and millet) for higher nutritional value.
The most nutritious gluten-free crackers will have a variety of whole grains, nut flour, and seeds. Bean powders are an added bonus as they increase protein and fiber content. Check the label for at least three grams of protein and three grams of fiber, and you’ll enjoy a healthier, more satisfying snack.
- Snack Bars
Gluten-free snack bars are convenient to have on the go. Unfortunately, some varieties aren’t any better for your health than a candy bar. Choose a snack bar made with at least eight to 10 grams of protein and with naturally gluten-free ingredients like nuts, seeds, beans, dried fruit, and gluten-free grains.
Gluten-Free Frozen Meals
Sometimes, you just can’t get into the kitchen to cook. This is when gluten-free frozen meals can come in handy. However, scan the nutrition label for ingredients you recognize. If it contains a lot of additives, sweeteners, and preservatives, make another selection.
Gluten-Free Baked Goods
In my 10 years here at Healthy Harvest, I have sold plenty of nutritious pre-packaged baked goods. However, as demand continues to grow, the nutritional content of these cookies, cakes, muffins, and brownies is rapidly disappearing.
When choosing gluten-free baked goods, I recommend looking for ingredients like gluten-free flour, organic sugar, organic eggs, safflower or sunflower oil, dates/date paste, fruit juice sweetener, sea salt, baking soda, and guar gum.
Of course, the healthiest baked goods you can eat are the ones you make at home from scratch. However, since few people have the time to bake regularly, I recommend stopping by Healthy Harvest, where we bake fresh, gluten-free goodies every day!
If you’re not in Connecticut, but you would like to try our gluten-free baked goods, we now deliver to New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Click here for menu options.
To be sure you’re choosing healthy gluten-free food, center your diet around naturally gluten-free foods, read ingredient labels carefully, and always look for organic, non-GMO products. This way, you can be confident in knowing that your gluten-free diet is a healthy one.
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