The recent trend from the world of diets might have you saying no to wheat. Many advocates of this gluten-free diet warn that wheat gluten disorders are affecting an increasing number of people. They say that avoiding gluten — a hard-to-digest protein found in certain grains like wheat and rye — leads to better energy levels and removes ill-health. Singer Miley Cyrus and actress Gwyneth Paltrow have spoken in favour of it.
While Spanish tennis champion Rafael Nadal has slammed the obsession with gluten-free diets popularised by rival Novak Djokovic, the latter has attributed his rise in form to it. Djokovic altered his diet when he discovered that he was sensitive to gluten, which was said to be the reason for his mid-match collapses.
How gluten is the culprit
Gluten is ‘spongy’ and gives food the elastic ability to ‘hold’ together. It is found in pasta, bread, cookies, pizzas, etc and interferes with the absorption of nutrients. Today, an overwhelming number of people are said to suffer from Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten ingestion, which is said to cause diarrhoea, weight loss and osteoporosis. When a person with Celiac eats or drinks anything containing gluten, the immune system responds by damaging the lining of the intestine. Unfortunately, Celiac is often mistaken for an eating disorder. The other culprit is the modern diet, which is high in refined wheat products and, in turn, leads to increased consumption of gluten.
What to eat and avoid
Many foods are naturally gluten-free:
Beans, seeds, nuts in their natural, unprocessed form
Fresh meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated)
Fruits and vegetables
Most dairy products
A strict gluten-free diet involves removing all foods, beverages and some medications that are made from gluten (with barley, rye, and wheat).
Avoid all food and drinks containing:
Barley (malt, malt flavouring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
You can substitute
The diet is workable with the Indian food plan, says nutritionist Naini Setalvad. “We have many substitutes like bajra, jowar ragi, rajgira, singhada atta, white poha, kurmura and sabudana,” she explains. Alternative grains such as soya, quinoa, cornflour, millet, arrowroot, amaranth and rice flours all go with the gluten-free diet. She, however, warns, “If you stop dairy, as an Indian, you would feel less full.”