When you found out you had to follow a gluten free diet, you probably had some anxiety. How were you going to eliminate major staples like bread, pasta, and cereal from your diet?
The reason why it’s so difficult is because these foods are omnipresent throughout the average American diet. For the cereal-eater, breakfast becomes tough. For the sandwich-eater, lunch becomes challenging. For the pasta-eater, dinner becomes a struggle.
The fact is, carbohydrates are important—and these grain-based foods are the ones most people are familiar with.
The Importance of Carbohydrates and Differentiating Between Good and Bad
Carbohydrates provide energy to every cell in your body. Without them, your body won’t function.
There are 2 basic types: simple carbs and complex carbs.
Complex carbs contain a small number of simple sugars. These are the good ones.
Conversely, simple carbs are high in sugar. For example, when you look at candy wrappers, you’ll see lots of carbohydrates. These are the bad type—candy and other foods containing lots of simple sugars are usually high in carbohydrates as well.
According to the World Health Organization, simple sugars (and thus simple carbs) have heavily contributed to the world obesity epidemic.
Not All Complex Carbs are Created Equal
Some breads, pastas, and cereals may be good sources of complex carbs. However, these carbs retain the most fat.
There is a subset of complex carbs that are good for you—the so-called slow carbs. Slow carbs have a low-glycemic index, so they break down glucose slowly, keeping your blood sugar more constant.
And here’s the good news—slow carbs are naturally gluten-free.
3 Types of Naturally Gluten Free Slow Carbs
Beans and LentilsBoth are great because they are dense with calcium, protein, and vitamins and minerals like B complex vitamins and folic acid.Folic acid is a key point here. Unless you supplement it, you’re likely deficient in folic acid because the average American gets a lot of their folic acid through fortified grains.
Since 1998, the U.S. has made it mandatory for companies who make and sell grains to fortify them with folic acid: many more people would be deficient without getting folic acid from bread and other grain-based foods. Unfortunately, very few gluten free breads are fortified with folic acid.
Beans are easy to integrate into many lunches and dinners. If you like Mexican food, you’ll always have a lot of good options. I highly recommend Mary Frances’ bean burrito in gluten free tortillas.
Lentils can be a good side, but are best in soup. Margie Culbertson has a great gluten free lentil soup recipe here.
Green VegetablesDark, leafy vegetables are the best. Spinach, kale, peas, and broccoli are all highly-recommended.
If you want to get creative with them (and you don’t have to), check out Elana’s Pantry for an awesome yet simple kale recipe. She’s always a great source for original gluten free recipes.
Three More Gluten Free Slow CarbsOatmeal, brown rice, and sweet potatoes are additionally highly-recommended.
In terms of oatmeal (and oats in general), there’s just one golden rule. Oats are gluten free, but are often harvested and grown with other glutinous grains. So, you just need to make sure whatever oats you’re eating are certified gluten free.
Brown rice is one that many of you may already eat, and is almost always easy to involve in any dinner.
Last but definitely not least, sweet potatoes are great plain, or with salsa, or with your other favorite gluten free sauce or toppings.
Again, no need to get creative. But if you’re in the mood, check out Carrie’s gluten free sweet potato casserole recipe over at her Ginger Lemon Girl blog.
Make sure you’re integrating at least a few of these slow carbs in your diet regularly, and it will help you lead a much healthier gluten free life.
And as always—let us know your favorite sources for carbs and nutritious gluten free recipes in the comments below! We’re always looking for new gluten free recipes to blog about…