If you’ve thought about going gluten free or wheat free, you’re not alone. In 2016, a CSIRO diet survey found approximately 1 in 10 Australians were restricting wheat and/or gluten from their diet.
There are different reasons for dietary restrictions and for certain medical conditions it may be advised by a doctor. Diets are a fundamental part of our everyday lives and understanding how our food choices affect our health, lifestyle and the environment is important.
Terra Madre has a wonderful and expansive selection of gluten free, wheat free and certified organic products, foods and ingredients. It’s reassuring to know there are still many delicious options even whilst your diet may involve restrictions.
What's the difference between gluten and wheat?
Wheat is a grain, heavily consumed worldwide and can be present in many foods. For example wheat is commonly found in bread, cereal and pasta. Avoiding wheat is essential for people with a confirmed wheat allergy but many cut it out for other reasons.
Gluten is one of many proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and oats and can be found in products such as bread, pasta, cereal, biscuits and cake. It makes a pizza base stretchy or gives a dough it’s structure. For people diagnosed with coeliac disease, a gluten free diet is essential. However, gluten free diets are also adopted for other reasons too.
Why do people go gluten free?
Coeliac disease, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (or gluten intolerance) and taste preferences are all reasons people adopt a gluten free diet.
According to Coeliac Australia, it is estimated that 1 in 70 people in Australia have coeliac disease, although most remain undiagnosed. For people with coeliac disease, gluten triggers an immune response and damage to the intestines lining. Although there’s no cure, a strict and lifelong gluten free diet allows the condition to be managed effectively.
For others, reports of symptoms like bloating and wind after consuming gluten – in absence of a coeliac disease diagnosis - has led to the term ‘non-coeliac gluten sensitivity’ (or gluten intolerance). Given the wonderful and diverse range of gluten-free options now on shelves some people also choose a gluten free diet based on taste preferences.
Why do people go wheat free?
The reasons people decide to adopt a wheat free diet are complex. A wheat free diet is essential if you’ve been diagnosed with a wheat allergy. According to ASCIA wheat is one of the nine foods that cause 90% of food allergic reactions. Nevertheless, most children allergic to wheat will outgrow their allergy.
For others a blanket ban of wheat is decided after a diagnosis of coeliac disease personally or of a family member. Some also avoid or reduce wheat to attempt weight control or cut it out based on taste preferences.
What does a gluten free diet look like?
A strict gluten free diet requires vigilance, being aware of ingredients and learning to be an expert label reader. To learn more, Coeliac Australia has resources on their website and produce a guide to eating gluten free.
Some of the naturally gluten free-foods include:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Fresh meats
- Nuts and legumes
- Eggs and milk
- Fats and oils
- Gluten free grains (including rice and corn)
There are also other products available that are labelled ‘gluten free’ and reading about the meaning of this label in Australia (and other countries) is worthwhile. It’s also worth looking out for Coeliac Australia’s Endorsement Logo, which is displayed on products tested to be suitable for people with coeliac disease.
What does a wheat free diet look like?
A wheat free diet also requires some research and the ‘Dietary Avoidance Guide – Wheat Allergy’ by the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy is a helpful resource. When managing a wheat allergy, it's important to discuss your diet with a health professional.
Some examples of foods and ingredients that contain wheat and should be avoided (if you are on a wheat free diet) include wheat and wheat flour, bulgar, couscous, durum, semolina and spelt.
Examples of foods to check the label and avoid if they contain wheat include:
- Breakfast cereal
- Baked goods
- Snack foods
However some of the wonderful wheat alternatives- are breads, flours, cereals and pastas made from: amaranth, arrowroot, barley, buckwheat, chickpea (besan), coconut, corn, gluten free flours, lentil, lupin, millet, oat, pea, polenta, potato, psyllium, quinoa, rice, rye, sago, soy, sorghum and tapioca.