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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Combining Gluten-Free and Plant-Based Diets

by Susan Fulton

Anyone who has celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity knows that it can be difficult to choose appropriate foods to remain symptom free, while at the same time consuming a healthy and nutritious variety of meals. In today’s world, we are thankfully more and more aware that the food we put in our bodies has a huge impact on both our physical and mental health and well-being. Never has the saying “You are what you eat” been more timely and true.
   
Many people prefer not to eat animal products, either for philosophical or religious reasons, or just to feel healthier. For those who combine a vegan or plant-based lifestyle with a gluten-free diet, it becomes essential to plan carefully to be sure to get the proper nutrition to run all the complex systems in our bodies. Many plant-based products can contain gluten, so extra vigilance is required when choosing food items. It’s also important to remember that even though a product is labeled “plant based”, it may still have unwanted additives. Careful reading of labels is always key to avoiding contamination.
   
Getting proper protein and vitamins can be accomplished by eating a variety of beans, seeds and nuts, and using flours made from them. Dark leafy greens, fortified plant-based milks, dried figs and oatmeal are all good sources of calcium. Many gluten-free grains are good sources of iron as are lentils, kidney beans, lima beans and chickpeas.
   
B-12 is also an important nutrient which may require supplementation, since it only occurs naturally in animal products and is poorly absorbed by those with celiac disease.
   
The bottom line is that it is definitely possible to stay healthy and well-nourished on both a gluten-free and plant-based diet, as long as extra care is taken to ensure that all nutritional needs for the body are being met through food and supplement choices. Eat mindfully and enjoy.

Susan Fulton is co-owner of Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery/Bistro, located at 5845 N. Oracle Rd, Tucson. Connect at 520-408-9000 or GourmetGirlsGlutenFree.com. See ad, page 28.
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