Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A 'hole' in the Gluten Free diet

As I said in one of my earlier blogs, it is entirely possible to eat a well-balanced diet following a GF eating plan. However, it may take a little creativity at times. After about 2 solid weeks of eating gluten free, I realized a short-coming in my own eating plan: the lack of whole grains. I noticed this fairly quickly because my dietitian mind is trained to look for possible nutrition deficiencies in people's diets. I suspect it could take much longer for the average person who is new to GF eating, as there are many potential nutritional shortcomings.

So what's the deal with whole grains? Well for starters, whole grains provide a good source of fiber in the American diet, and for people who aren't eating the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, it is the main source of fiber. General recommendations for fiber are 25-30 grams/day, and my quick calculations told me I was previously getting about half of my fiber from whole grains. Whole grains also are rich sources of many other minerals that are otherwise scarce in the typical western diet. As a newly GF 'convert' I did what most people would probably do: go for the easy grain substitutes (GF bread, potatoes, rice) which are (or are made from) less fiber rich sources, and often not fortified with other important nutrients. In the U.S. most grains are fortified with folic acid, niacin, thiamin, iron and riboflavin- nutrients which are often lost in processing. GF substitutes often lack these also. However, there are several less well-known whole grains that are GF such as quinoa (keen-wah), amaranth, millet, corn and buckwheat just to name a few.

So I turned to my (as of yet) most trustworthy GF resource, a comprehensive book written by Shelley Case, a dietitian who specializes in Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance disorders. It's called: Gluten Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. Why am I partial to this book? I've read tons of great blogs and websites and learned about many recipes and products, but from a nutrition and health perspective, dietitians are really the only professionals trained to examine a diet as a whole and assess its adequacy. There are many people (some of my patients included) who know far more about GF living than I do- but I believe it is a full time job to be able to look at someone's intake and determine "is he/she getting enough protein/calcium/iron/fiber/ carbohydrates/etc based on his/her individual needs?"..and this is something dietitians are skilled to do. This book does that, as well as provide product listings, recipes, the latest research and credible organizations with reliable information. (find at http://www.glutenfreediet.ca/)

Tonight I made a great quinoa pilaf with cranberries and almonds. This might be my favorite GF experiment yet in terms of ease, taste, and health. I think it will be a new staple in my diet. The great thing about quinoa is that it is the only grain that is also a complete protein. Most other grains lack one or more of the essential amino acids that would make them "complete." Again, this is a Whole Foods recipe (I promise I don't work for them): http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/2486.

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