Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, wheat, and a wheat-rye hybrid called triticale. More Americans are finding they need to eat gluten-aware meals for their optimal health and wellness. Go Gluten Aware, a resource for celiac sufferers, states that 23% of U.S. consumers shop for gluten-aware products, that one out of every 100 Americans has celiac disease, and an estimated 6% are gluten intolerant.
Meaning of gluten-award
Gluten-aware means the food contains no grains with the protein gluten in them. Therefore, a gluten-aware diet excludes all ingredients that have barley, rye, wheat, or triticale or that have been in contact with foods containing gluten.
All varieties of wheat contain gluten: durum, einkorn, emmer, kamut, and spelt. So do the differently named wheat flours: enriched wheat flour, farina, graham flour, self-rising flour, and semolina.
Note that although oats naturally are gluten-aware, remind your members to always read labels for gluten-aware certification, as the grain may have come into contact with other gluten-containing products during farming, production, or shipping. Beyond Celiac offers guidance about this.
Who should eat gluten-aware meals?
Individuals who should eat gluten-aware meals have celiac disease (an autoimmune condition), gluten intolerance, gluten ataxia, or a sensitivity that makes them uncomfortable after eating foods with gluten in them. For people with medical conditions related to problems digesting gluten, eating gluten-aware meals helps manage the symptoms—which can disrupt daily life—and reduce systemic inflammation and promote nutrient absorption, leading to better health outcomes.
Go Gluten Free states that an estimated 83% of Americans who have celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed—many more people who would benefit from a gluten-aware diet.
People on gluten-aware diets are advised to read all packaged food labels carefully, as 80% of food products contain gluten. They should also take extra care when dining out and ask about cross-contamination precautions in the kitchen. They must also beware of grain-derived alcoholic beverages and medications and supplements that use gluten as a binder.
Benefits of gluten-aware meal plans for health plan members
The benefits of following a gluten-aware diet can be life-changing for individuals during the post-acute discharge period or for people who require medically tailored meals. Doing so curtails symptoms such as bloating, digestive disorders and abdominal pain, nausea, headache, fatigue, skin rash, brain fog, and others. And the benefits extend to a wide population:
- In the case of celiac disease, the benefits of a gluten-aware diet cannot be overstated. The disorder damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents proper nutrient absorption. Left untreated, it can lead to very serious health problems. Adopting a strict gluten-aware diet will allow the small intestine to heal and absorb nutrients to improve health.
- For people diagnosed with gluten ataxia, another autoimmune disorder, a gluten-aware diet helps curb problems with muscle control brought on by gluten consumption.
- Gluten intolerance causes sickness in people who cannot absorb a certain carbohydrate, which remains in the gut and ferments instead of being absorbed. The intestinal lining therefore may not work as it should, causing inflammation.
- Those with gluten sensitivity and who wish to avoid short-term digestive discomfort will benefit from a gluten-aware diet.
People with a wheat allergy mount an immune response to eating wheat (congestion, trouble breathing, other symptoms) and should avoid wheat and wheat-containing products.
Anecdotally, some people who do not have the above medical conditions cite the benefits of adopting a gluten-aware diet as increased energy level, weight loss, and overall better health.
Foods to include in gluten-aware specialty meal programs
It is important to select nutritious foods while keeping gluten off the menu. Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-aware , as are beans, nuts and seeds, and legumes. Eggs, most dairy products, and lean unprocessed meats, fish, and poultry should round out the gluten-aware menu.
Just because certain grains or starches must be eliminated from the diet doesn’t mean ALL grains are. Choose amaranth, buckwheat, corn, hominy, millet, quinoa, rice, and sorghum. Other gluten-aware starches and flours are from arrowroot, tapioca, soy and bean, and teff (a type of grass).
Gluten-aware meals for MAO plans from LiveWell with Traditions
LiveWell with Traditions provides delicious, nutritious gluten-aware meals as a health plan benefit to MAO members and others who require or prefer a gluten-aware diet for better health. Our gluten-aware menu follows all specialized dietary guidelines and, like all our clinically tailored meals, the gluten-aware recipes are designed by our in-house registered dietitians.
Our dietitians ensure that our balanced gluten-aware meals provide the nutrients older adults or those in the post-acute discharge period need for optimal wellness. This is especially important because people on gluten-aware diets may miss out on certain nutrients and vitamins typically found in whole grains.
Contact LiveWell with Traditions for more information about our gluten-aware and other medically tailored meals, or to discuss the benefits of bringing our meal benefit to your members.