Eat Your Vegetables: Nutrients You’re Missing When Gluten-Free
Published June, 2021
Cutting out wheat, rye, and barley – and products derived from those grains – is the way people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) eat gluten-free. Sticking to a gluten-free diet helps heal intestinal damage caused by celiac disease, specifically, and improves health. NCGS does not cause intestinal damage but is also treated with a gluten-free diet. Eliminating gluten-containing grains and grain-based products from your diet, however, can reduce intake of some key nutrients.
How can you help make up for lost nutrients through foods? In addition to incorporating nutritious, gluten-free whole grains into your diet, vegetables are a great way to go. Vegetables are generally good sources of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and healthful phytonutrients. Vegetables are also free of saturated fat and refined carbohydrates, dietary components that should generally be limited.
The most prevalent grain in most American’s diet is wheat. Let’s look at some of the main nutrients that wheat provides that you may now be missing. Then let’s take a look at some of the vegetables that contain them, too.
The main nutrients contained in wheat can be found in either its whole grain form, such as whole wheat flour or wheat berries, when consumed as wheat germ or bran, or in products made with standard white wheat flour that are often fortified or enriched. Products made with gluten-free grains are not as likely to be fortified/enriched.
Some Nutrients You Might Be Missing Without Gluten-Containing Grains
Here is some basic background on some of the vitamins and minerals found in whole wheat or fortified/enriched wheat-based products, and what they do for our bodies.
Iron – Used to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles.
B Vitamins – There are a number of types of B vitamins, each contributing to your overall health. For example, vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. The body needs vitamin B6 for more than 100 enzyme reactions involved in metabolism. Vitamin B9, also known as Folate, is needed to make DNA and other genetic material.
Magnesium – Regulates muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure as well as making protein, bone, and DNA.
Manganese – Helps your body make energy and protect your cells from damage. Also helps with bone strength, reproduction, blood clotting, and keeping a healthy immune system.
Selenium – Important for reproduction, thyroid gland function, and DNA production. Protects the body from damage caused by free radicals and from infection.
Zinc – Helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses and makes proteins and DNA.
Vegetable Sources of Nutrients
Let’s explore some of the vegetables that could help fill in nutrient gaps when you’re living entirely gluten-free.
Here’s a table that shows some of the vegetables that provide certain nutrients you might be missing after removing wheat-based products from your diet.
*Check for certified gluten-free
Fun Fact #1
You may not know this, but beans, peas, and lentils can be considered either part of the Vegetable or Protein food group. Unlike other vegetables, they contribute a significant amount of protein to your diet in addition to their other nutritional benefits.
Fun Ways to Prepare Veggies
There are many different ways to make vegetables exciting, flavorful, and fun.
Shake things up! Shape, size, and texture differences really change how foods are experienced.
Spiralize – Try spiralized zucchini, carrots, or cucumbers in salads, or use as a substitute for pasta by pouring marinara on top and sprinkling with parmesan.
Shave – Use a vegetable peeler to shave thin slices of carrots or cucumbers into your salads or on top of cottage cheese or plain yogurt.
Blend – Throw some veggies into your fruit smoothie for some extra nutrients and a fresh flavor.
More Veggies, Please
Eliminating wheat (along with rye and barley) from your diet is the only way to treat celiac disease and relieve the discomfort of gluten sensitivity. Making sure you round out your diet to get the Recommended Dietary Allowances of vitamins and minerals is important for getting the nutrients your body needs. Saying “yes” to more vegetables is a good move for health and nutrition for everyone, gluten-free or not.
Fun Fact #2
June 17th is National Eat Your Veggies Day. Go for it!
Disclaimer: The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.
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