Healthy & Happy

Facts About a Gluten-Free Diet

You can't turn on the television, read a paper, or surf online these days without seeing the term gluten-free. But what exactly is gluten and why are so many people avoiding it? Gluten is the collective term for the proteins found in the grains wheat, rye and barley and their various forms. It is best known for giving baked goods their doughy, elastic structure, however many foods contain gluten for other purposes, including as a thickening agent or flavor enhancer. If you want to be Gluten-free you should watch out for wheat, barley, and rye bread products.

Who is Eating Gluten-Free and Why? The effects of gluten are not the same for everyone. While the vast majority of americans consume gluten and experience no side effects, some must avoid gluten due to specific medical conditions.

What about oats? While oats are inherently gluten-free, they often come in contact with gluten during harvesting, shipping and manufacturing. People with celiac disease should avoid regular oats and any foods containing them. Some people with celiac disease can tolerate moderate amounts of pure, uncontaminated or certified gluten-free oats, however others are highly sensitive and cannot. It is recommended that people with celiac disease should introduce certified gluten-free oats into their diet only under the supervision of their physician and/or registered dietitian (rd).

Just because a food is gluten-free does not automatically mean it is healthful or helps with weight loss. While the influx of gluten- free packaged foods on the market has made it easier and more enjoyable to stick to a gluten-free diet, some products (not all) are high in starches, refined grains, fats and sugars and low in nutrients, particularly iron, B vitamins and fiber. those on a gluten-free diet can best meet their nutrient needs by eating mostly whole foods, saving treats for special occasions and convenience foods for when they are truly needed. the good news is that the gluten-free market is still in its infancy and food companies are working to make gluten-free products more nutritious through whole food ingredients and fortification.

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