Once you’ve figured out the basics of staying gluten-free, it’s time to consider other aspects of the diet which can also impact your health. Is your gluten-free diet a heart-healthy one? Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Learn how to reduce your risk by making your gluten-free diet heart-healthy too.
Some gluten-free packaged goods are high in fat, sugar, salt and calories. While it’s fine to consume these on occasion, over-reliance on these foods may contribute to weight gain, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, all of which increase risk of heart disease.
Applying a Heart Healthy Diet to a Gluten-Free Lifestyle
Both type and amount are important when it comes to fat intake. Saturated and trans fats raise blood cholesterol and should be limited. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature and found mostly in meat, poultry with skin, whole milk, other high fat dairy products, and even coconut milk. Most trans fats in foods are artificially created by a process that makes liquid vegetable oils more solid; these fats are called “partially hydrogenated oils” and are listed as such in ingredient labels. Trans fats are often found in foods such as crackers, cookies, stick margarine and shortening. In 2015 the FDA issued a regulation which will require the elimination of trans fats from processed foods by 2018, noting that this change is expected to significantly reduce incidence of heart disease.
A concentrated source of empty calories that can contribute to weight gain, thus increasing risk for cardiovascular disease. Keep sugar intake to a minimum. Opt for fruits instead of candy and desserts.
Be aware that some gluten-free foods (as well as non gluten-free foods) are packed with extra salt to satisfy our tastes and preserve the product. Most Americans get far more sodium than the body requires. This can raise blood pressure levels, leading to increased heart disease risk.
Consuming plenty of fiber can help you feel satiated and may play a role in maintaining a healthy weight.
Also, soluble fiber in particular forms a substance in the intestines which helps to block cholesterol absorption. Dietary fiber also binds with cholesterol allowing it to be excreted from the body. Good gluten-free fiber sources include fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
This article has been assessed and approved by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.