Dietitian Bronte Anscombe shares how to ensure you don’t become nutrient deficient.
Between the increasing awareness of Coeliac Disease and the ever-growing trend of following a gluten-free diet, you would be forgiven for thinking that
removing gluten from your diet is the most nutritious way to eat. Gluten in its natural, minimally processed form, provides a lot of nutrients that
aren’t always present in sufficient amounts in a gluten-free diet. Here is a quick guide on which nutrients to be aware of, and how to ensure that
a diet without gluten does not result in a nutrient deficiency.
B Vitamins & Iron:
There is a higher risk for people with Coeliac Disease to become deficient in nutrients such as iron, vitamin B6 and B12. Those newly diagnosed are at a higher risk, since damage to the small intestine can prevent absorption 1.
B vitamins work to fight infection, assist the nervous system, and convert carbohydrates, protein and fats from our food into energy 2. Being a water-soluble vitamin, B vitamins need to be eaten every day as they are not stored in our bodies 2. While gluten-containing grains are a common source of B vitamins, there are plenty of other naturally gluten-free foods that are a great source to include in your diet.
Iron is also important for immunity, allowing red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body3. With an iron deficiency you may feel tired, cold, have “brain fog” and have frequent illnesses or infections 4.
My top GF tips:
- Eat a varied and balanced diet including foods such as gluten-free wholegrains (such as quinoa, buckwheat), green leafy vegetables, eggs, dairy products, meat, legumes (such as chickpeas) and nuts
- If you avoid animal products, focus on including fortified cereals (such as gluten free Weetbix), fortified milk (such as soy milk)
- Ask your doctor to check your iron (ferritin, haemoglobin), B12 and folate levels if you are feeling tired or constantly getting sick, as you may have a deficiency
Fibre is found in plant products, with a well-known role of assisting with regular bowel movements. Research also suggests that fibre also plays a role in reducing the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease 5. Removing gluten from the diet often results in eating less wholegrains, with these foods providing the large majority of fibre in the diet 6. For someone with Coeliac Disease, it is important to be aware of eating fibre-rich food every day, to get all the health benefits that this nutrient provides.
My top GF tips:
- Choose a gluten free breakfast cereal that contains nuts, seeds and wholegrains
- When choosing a gluten free bread, opt for one with seeds and more of a “brown” variety
- Have a fibre-rich snack: vegetable sticks (carrot, celery, cucumber) with hummus or fresh fruit with the skin on
- 1.Kupper, C. (2005). Dietary guidelines and implementation for celiac disease. Gastroenterology, 128(4), S121-S127.
- 2.NZ Nutrition Foundation (2018). B Vitamins & Folate. Retrieved from https://nutritionfoundation.org.nz/vitamins/b-vitamins
- 3.NZ Nutrition Foundation (2018). Iron. Retrieved from https://nutritionfoundation.org.nz/nutrition-facts/minerals/iron
- 4.Health Navigator New Zealand. (2018). Iron. Retrieved from https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/healthy-living/eating-drinking/v/vitamins-minerals/iron/
- 5.Cho, S. S., Qi, L., Fahey Jr, G. C., & Klurfeld, D. M. (2013). Consumption of cereal fiber, mixtures of whole grains and bran, and whole grains and risk reduction in type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease–. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 98(2), 594-619.
- 6.Ministry of Health. (2011). A Focus on Nutrition: Key Findings of the 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey. Wellington Ministry of Health Retrieved from https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/a-focus-on-nutrition-ch6_0.pdf