08 July, 2011
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Gluten-Free Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet incorporates food and drinks traditionally served in Egypt, Greece, Italy, Turkey, France and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Gluten refers to a group of storage proteins found in wheat, barley and rye that cause an autoimmune disorder known as celiac disease, or CD. While other grains like corn and rice also contain glutens, these glutens don’t cause CD. Because whole grains are an integral part of the Mediterranean Diet, it can be challenging to create gluten-free meals.
According to the Mediterranean Foods Alliance, the Mediterranean Diet incorporates significant amounts of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. People on this diet also eat moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt, select healthy fats such as those found in olive oil and nuts, eat fish and seafood regularly and drink wine in moderation.
Fresh, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, dairy products meat/meat alternatives are gluten-free, according to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. Other gluten-free components of the Mediterranean diet include nuts, wine without preservatives or added dye and fresh, frozen, dried or canned vegetables and fruits without thickening agents. Aged hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, Edam and Parmesan are gluten-free. Yogurt, olive and canola oil are also gluten-free, according to the Celiac Sprue Association.
The emphasis on whole grains in the Mediterranean Diet can create challenges for gluten-sensitive individuals. While whole grains like wheat and barley are obvious sources of forbidden gluten, it’s also important to avoid flours made from derivatives of those grains, including bulgur, durham, farina, graham, matzo meal and semolina. Many commercially-prepared foods like breads, cakes, pies, cereals, cookies, crackers and pasta are gluten-laden, says MayoClinic.com. Condiments like salad dressing, sauces and gravy may use gluten as a thickener.
The Celiac Sprue Association recommends a number of grains and starches to replace those derived from wheat, rye or barley. People on the Mediterranean Diet who are gluten-sensitive can safely eat white or brown rice flour, potato, tapioca, arrowroot, corn meal, corn flour, soy flour, flax, wild rice, quinoa, millet, hominy and flours that are labeled 100 percent gluten-free. When purchasing a new product, it’s important to read the label carefully to make sure gluten was not added during the manufacturing process.
The Celiac Sprue Association publishes an extensive listing of gluten-free grains and flours that can guide people who want to stick with the Mediterranean Diet.
- Mediterranean Sea image by Oleg Gribanov from Fotolia.com