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What does 'gluten-free' really mean? Here's all you need to know

Going gluten-free means avoiding these grains. This diet is essential for most people with gluten allergies or celiac disease, a condition that causes intestinal damage when gluten is consumed.

Before discussing the popular gluten-free diet, it is important to know about gluten. Gluten is a group of proteins found in certain grains, such as wheat, rye and barley. It helps food maintain its shape by providing elasticity and moisture. It also allows the bread to rise and provides a chewy texture.

Going gluten-free means avoiding these grains. This diet is essential for most people with gluten allergies or celiac disease, a condition that causes intestinal damage when gluten is consumed.

The most difficult step to follow on this diet is bidding farewell to bread. But don't worry, many grocery stores and supermarkets now carry gluten-free products, including an assortment of breads. These are often made with rice or potato flour instead of wheat products. Just check the label to make sure it says "100% gluten-free."

If you're planning to go gluten-free, here are some healthy food options for you.

Corn and rice cereals

Traditional breakfast cereals are another casualty for people on a gluten-free diet. Corn and rice-based cereals are good breakfast alternatives, but it's crucial to read labels carefully, as some may also contain malt.

A new twist on pasta

It's true, no matter what its shape or name, most pasta is made out of wheat. So you'll need to avoid regular spaghetti, macaroni, shells and spirals when you're on a gluten-free diet. Instead, look for pasta made from rice, corn or quinoa.

Go for lean meat

You don't need to hide the succulent charms of fresh chicken, fish and meat under a loaf of bread. Go for lean meat without any additives and you'll be eating right for a gluten-free diet. Do keep in mind that hot dogs and deli meats are processed, so check the ingredients for additives that might contain gluten.

Gluten-free cookies and cakes

While a gluten-free diet won't contain most traditional cakes, pies, cookies and other celebratory treats which are loaded with wheat flour, there are still lots of ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. Marshmallows, gumdrops, plain hard candies are all usually gluten-free. You can also look for specialty bakeries that may be able to create custom-ordered gluten-free cakes, pies and other treats too.

Also Read: Immunity essentials: Zinc-rich foods to add to your diet

For most people with celiac disease, even small amounts of gluten can cause symptoms like gas and bloating, changes in bowel movements, weight loss, fatigue and weakness. That's why going gluten-free can be a big help no matter how mild or serious your symptoms are.

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