Gluten free blogs aren’t all about “How do I make gluten free bread”. Sometimes it’s time to discuss general health. Nutritional deficiencies are common in untreated coeliac patients due to gut damage experienced over time. If you receive a coeliac disease diagnosis, you should always check with your doctor to see what additional vitamins and minerals are required by your depleted body. Adults should also have a bone density scan to check for osteopenia or osteoporosis, as calcium deficiencies may have caused serious issues over time. Your general health is important and making sure you eat the right foods, with the right vitamins and minerals is the best way to protect it.
The most common initial deficiencies are Vitamins B and D, Iron, Calcium, Copper, Folate, Magnesium, and Zinc. With a healthy gluten free diet, a good multivitamin and a healing gut, most of these deficiencies will luckily just correct themselves.
Iron helps produce red blood cells and carry oxygen through the blood. It is one deficiency that may need extra focus beyond just a multivitamin and change in diet. Some coeliacs may initially require iron transfusions or specific iron supplements straight after diagnosis, but ongoing iron stores should then come from normal gluten free foods. Lean meats and poultry are good iron sources and the best although not very popular source is liver - for those who can stomach it. Non meat iron is not as easily absorbed, but absorption rates improve if eaten with healthy levels of vitamin C. Non meat iron rich foods include lightly cooked dark leafy greens (particularly spinach and Swiss chard), beans & legumes (lentils, chickpeas, navy beans, kidney beans and lima beans), some dried fruits, (particularly unsulphured apricots), quinoa, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
Gluten free packaged foods are often refined and tend not to be vitamin fortified. Most wheat based breads and breakfast products are fortified with extra vitamins to ensure the general population receives enough, but gluten free foods don’t normally do this. The coeliac diet is therefore associated with lower levels of some nutrients, specifically B vitamins and fibre.
B vitamins help with cell metabolism, synthesis of red blood cells and turning food into energy. They include niacin, riboflavin, thiamine and folate. On a gluten free diet, these may need to be topped up on an ongoing basis. Many of the foods previously mentioned as containing iron, are also good sources of B vitamins including poultry, fish and red meat (and liver again) legumes, sunflower seeds, green leafy vegetables, eggs, milk, almonds, oranges and nutritional yeast.
Fibre is important for digestive health and regular bowel movements. Naturally occurring gluten free foods that are high in fibre include grains such as corn, millet, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, teff and quinoa, as well as a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, especially those with skins, pips or seeds. High fibre chia seeds can be added to many foods.
Easy tips to ensure your diet is providing a wide array of nutrients include:
- And a handful of nuts or seeds to your breakfast cereals or yoghurt.
- Try gluten free wholegrain products made from brown rice, amaranth, teff, millet and quinoa.
- Choose wholemeal and multigrain versions of gluten free breads and flours.
- Increase your fruit and vegetables to a minimum of 5 a day. These can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried and where possible leave the fibre rich skins on. Put down the peeler!
- Look for wholegrain/high fibre snacks throughout the day such as dried fruit, fruit strips, nuts or cereal bars. Popcorn is an excellent high fibre snack.
- Use raw sesame seeds or flax seeds to add crunch and flavour to salads, hot vegetable dishes, or baked goods. Sesame seeds are perfect to top home made sausage rolls!
- Add falafels onto a grazing platter or in a wrap with salad.
- When cooking muffins or cakes, throw in some chia seeds.
- Add legumes and pulses, to soups, stews and curries.
- Lightly steam vegetables instead of boiling them. This helps retain the nutrients.
- Always drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
- If your body is missing something, check nutritional panels on packaged foods you buy. GF Pantry show all nutritional quantities for your convenience.
Good luck with your healthy eating. Don’t forget that treats are good for mental health, so feel free to indulge occasionally, but also always follow doctor’s orders to check and address significant nutritional deficiencies and maintain good health.
And finally, for a good hit of powerful nutrients and amazing flavours, try our roasted vegetable and lentil soup. Perfect for autumn, winter and spring meals!
Roast vegetable and Thai lentil soup.
- 2 onions
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 4 large carrots (skin on)
- 2 capsicums
- 2 potatoes (skin on)
- 1/2 a small pumpkin
- 2 litres of good vegetable stock
- 1 cup of dried red lentils (rinsed)
- 1 tbsp Thai curry paste
- Coconut cream
- Fresh herbs to garnish
- Chop vegetables and roast in a good olive oil at 180 C for 30 minutes.
- Combine roasted vegetables and stock, then blend before adding lentils and curry powder. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are at your desired consistency. The longer the cooking, the smoother the soup will be.
- Spoon into bowls with a good dollop of coconut cream and a handful of chopped fresh herbs from the garden – coriander and mint are our favourites but parsley and Thai basil are also fabulous. It really just depends on what is growing. Serve with a freshly buttered wholegrain roll.