Many staple foods rich in certain nutrients - such as bread, pasta, and cereals - contain gluten. Without these foods, it can be more difficult for individuals on a gluten-free diet to get sufficient amounts of fiber, certain B vitamins, vitamin A, magnesium, calcium, and iron. When you follow a gluten-free diet, it's not enough to just avoid foods containing gluten. It is essential to be mindful of choosing nutrient-dense foods that support your gut and overall health. Adding superfoods to your diet is one way to ensure you get the nutrients your body needs.
What Is a Superfood?
A "superfood" is a nutrient-rich food that is particularly beneficial for health and wellbeing. There is no official process for classifying a certain food as a superfood, and the term is often used more for marketing purposes than for scientific accuracy. However, a food may be considered a superfood if it meets certain criteria, such as being high in antioxidants, fiber, or other nutrients or having other health-promoting properties.
5 Gluten-Free Superfoods
Let's take a closer look at five gluten-free foods that are often considered superfoods. These foods may promote gut healing and support your overall health.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink made by adding kefir grains to milk. Kefir grains are a combination of yeast and bacteria that resemble a small, cauliflower-like mass. The grains feed on the lactose in the milk, causing them to ferment and produce a slightly sour, carbonated drink.
Kefir is a rich source of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and help to maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms. Kefir is also a good source of calcium, protein, and B vitamins. This makes it a nutritious addition to your diet, especially if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and may be at risk of nutrient deficiencies because of the limitations of a gluten-free diet.
Potential health benefits of consuming kefir include:
- Improved digestive health
- Boosted immune system
- Reduced symptoms of allergies and asthma
- Lowered risk of certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
To incorporate kefir into your diet, you can add it to smoothies, use it as a base for dressings or dips, or drink it on its own as a refreshing beverage.
Moringa is a tree native to the Himalayan region of India, known for its highly nutritious leaves. Moringa leaves are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. They are also rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Moringa has traditionally been used to treat various health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and anemia.
Consuming moringa may promote gut healing and reduce inflammation to help manage symptoms in individuals with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Potential health benefits of moringa include:
- Improved immune function
- Balanced blood sugar levels
- Lowered blood pressure
- Boosted iron levels (to reduce anemia)
To incorporate moringa into your diet, you can eat raw leaves or add them to soups, stews, and curries. Moringa powder, made from ground moringa leaves, can also be added to smoothies or mixed into drinks for an extra boost of nutrition.
Royal jelly is a milk-like substance produced by worker bees and fed to the queen bee during the larval stage. It is rich in nutrients and has been traditionally used to promote longevity and improve overall health. Royal jelly is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B1, B2, and B6, as well as niacin and pantothenic acid.
Royal jelly has potential benefits for people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity:
- May support the healing and repair of damaged intestines
- Reduces inflammation
- Promotes healthy aging
- Enhances the immune system
- Protects against neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia
Royal jelly can be consumed as a dietary supplement in capsules or as a liquid. You can also add it to drinks or smoothies.
Coconut is a tropical fruit native to the South Pacific and Asia. It is the fruit of the coconut palm tree and has a hard, woody shell that surrounds a white, edible flesh and a liquid called coconut water. Coconut has been a staple food in many tropical regions for centuries.
Coconut is a good source of healthy fats, including medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which can help to improve cholesterol levels and boost weight loss. It is also rich in fiber, minerals, and other compounds that may benefit your health.
Potential health benefits of coconut include:
- Promotes healthy digestion
- Boosts immune function
- Supports brain health
- Reduces inflammation
There are many ways to add coconut to your diet. Coconut oil has a high smoke point, making it suitable for high-heat cooking methods such as sauteing and stir-frying. You can also use coconut flour in baking recipes. Coconut flour is a good option for gluten sensitivity because it is naturally gluten-free and has a lower carbohydrate content than wheat flour. Coconut milk is an excellent dairy-free alternative for smoothies, soups, and curries. Finally, you can add unsweetened shredded coconut to your oatmeal, yogurt, or baked goods for flavor and added nutrients.
Flaxseed is a small, nutty-flavored seed high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed is often considered a "superfood" because of its many potential health benefits.
Flaxseed can be a good source of dietary fiber for people following a gluten-free diet, as it is high in soluble and insoluble fiber. Besides its fiber content, flaxseed is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids - essential fats the body needs for optimal health. Flaxseed is also a good source of lignans, plant compounds with antioxidant effects.
- Reduce inflammation
- Lower cholesterol and blood pressure
- Promote healthy digestion
- Regulate blood sugar levels
There are many ways to use flaxseed in your diet. One option is to grind flaxseeds and sprinkle them over oatmeal, yogurt, and salads. Flaxseed oil can be used in salad dressing or added to smoothies.
Getting Essential Nutrients on a Gluten-Free Diet
To ensure you get the nutrients you need, focus on eating a varied diet that includes a range of nutrient-rich, gluten-free foods. Aim to eat fiber-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
Gluten-free grains, such as rice, quinoa, and oats, can also be good sources of fiber, B vitamins and other nutrients. If you know you are not getting the nutrients you need through diet alone, talk to your doctor about potential dietary supplements that may help you.