This past week I finally decided to try something I have been dying to do for a couple months: going on a gluten-free diet.
Gluten-free diets are a growing trend in the United States. Gluten is the protein that is responsible for keeping the elasticity in doughy products and is most commonly found in wheat, barley and rye. Think pasta. While there is nothing inherently “unhealthy” about gluten, it can cause digestive issues for people who have intolerance to the disease.
Diagnoses of gluten intolerance and celiac disease, an autoimmune disease irritated by gluten, are on the rise. According to an article in USA Today, in 2003, 40,000 Americans were diagnosed with celiac disease. Today, 110,000 people are.
Whether or not you are intolerant to gluten, cutting it from your diet can lead to a variety of health benefits. For me, the promise of easier digestion and higher levels of energy were the biggest selling points.
And it delivered. After just a few days, I began to feel lighter, more energetic and overall better.
Along with the physical benefits I felt, it encouraged me to eat more fruits and vegetables. It forced me to be creative and try out some new veggie recipes as well as make a huge batch of gluten free granola.
However, starting the diet did require a change in how I shopped. Most foods that are packaged and processed contain gluten, eliminating a good chunk of your average supermarket.
As a result, I had to be very mindful while grocery shopping. Instead of buying a traditional tortilla I opted for a brown rice tortilla. And instead of buying Ritz crackers, I grabbed quinoa-flax seed crackers. Mary’s Gone Crackers are a great pick.
Another place to be especially careful is in the bread aisle. Instead of your average loaf, pick out sprouted bread, which is made from whole grains that have been allowed to sprout. Ezekiel makes a great loaf of bread as does Udi’s Bread.
If you are looking for oats for granola, try Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats. The company also sells some great alternatives for standard all-purpose flour, such as almond flour.
Also, don’t forget to buy enough vegetables to create salads with.
One of my concerns about trying to go gluten free was how hard I thought I would have to work to find gluten free options on-campus.
As a student who lives off campus, I usually cook at my apartment but found eating on campus to be easier than I had imagined. Places like People’s Market and the Procrastination Station proved to be my best options. People’s Market offers veggies and hummus to-go, yogurt and Naked smoothies, all great gluten free options. The Procrastination Station sells a variety of macrobiotic packages making a quick lunch easy.
In the morning, fruit at Burgers 101 and Whitmore Café is an easy breakfast option.
If you are student living on-campus that eats all of your meals at the dining commons, don’t worry. They now have gluten-free stations set up there too.
For most people considering making these dietary changes, it is best to make the switch gradually. Slowly phase out some of the more egregious offenders with healthier, smarter alternatives.
Although going gluten-free isn’t for everyone, I found it extremely beneficial. I think it helped me tune into my body and investigate the ingredients of all the things I had been eating. If nothing else, it continued my mindfulness about eating.
Liz Dwyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.