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Wednesday Wisdom: Nutrition Deficiencies on a Gluten-Free Diet

Once you’ve started on your gluten-free diet and have it under control, it’s important to be aware of deficiencies you are at risk for by eliminating gluten from your diet.  Any time you remove a whole food group from your diet, it can leave you at risk for missing out on proper nutrients typically obtained from that food. Items that contain gluten (wheat, barley, and rye) are important for their fiber and other nutrients.

Getting adequate fiber in the diet is essential for multiple of reasons, including maintaining regular bowel movements, prevention of colon cancers, sustaining low cholesterol levels, managing your weight, and supporting a diverse and thriving community of good bacteria in your gut. These beneficial bacteria manufacture vitamins, help protect you from foodborne illness, and stimulate the production of immune cells that boost your resistance to other infections.

Many gluten-rich foods are fortified with other nutrients such as folic acid, iron, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and other B vitamins. These nutrients are essential for energy production, nervous system function, proper growth of a fetus during pregnancy, red blood cell production and oxygenation of blood cells, bone strength, metabolic support, and immune function.

Your physician can monitor your levels of these nutrients with blood work and supplements can help when needed. Just remember to eat a variety of items especially your fruits, vegetables, nuts (almonds are awesome), and lean meats to make up for losses from fortified gluten-rich foods. To replace the gluten items, use fiber-rich foods that are naturally gluten-free such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, certified gluten-free oats, beans, and fun items like popcorn! You can even add seeds such as chia, pumpkin, flax and sunflower to add fiber, flavor and some healthy omegas.

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