Living a Healthy Gluten Free Life
Eating gluten-free is a lifestyle change that comes with its challenges. In order to successfully follow a gluten-free diet, it is essential to have a good understanding of the foods and ingredients that contain gluten. There is a large amount of misinformation available about what constitutes a gluten-free diet. As a result, individuals may avoid foods and ingredients unnecessarily, thus limiting the variety in their diet and resulting in nutritional deficiencies.
Getting Started on the Gluten-Free Diet
A document on gluten-free eating was created in partnership with Dietitians of Canada’s PEN to provide information on what is the gluten-free diet and how to get started. It provides information on cross-contamination and how to read labels. It also includes a comprehensive list of foods and ingredients to avoid and a list of those that are safe.
English: Click here
French: Click here
Enriching Gluten-Free Foods in Canada
Most gluten-free flours, breads, pasta products, breakfast cereals and baked goods available on the Canadian market are much lower in vitamins, mineral nutrients and fibre than the gluten-containing products they replace. As a result, people with celiac disease, who must consume a strict gluten-free diet for life, may not be receiving optimum nutrition from their diets.
The Good News
Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations allow the enrichment of gluten-free foods sold in Canada. The Regulation [D.03.003] states that in order to qualify for enrichment, all three of the following conditions must be met:
- The food must be a gluten-free food.
- No standard is prescribed in these Regulations for the food. Gluten-free foods do not have prescribed standards in the Food and Drug Regulations, so this is not a problem.
- The food is not advertised to the general public.
For the purpose of these Regulations, individuals with celiac disease are not regarded as the “general public”. Therefore, gluten-free foods may be advertised in magazines, newsletters, etc., that is targeted to individuals with celiac disease or others requiring a gluten-free diet.
Health Canada recommends that if cereal-based gluten-free foods are enriched, they should be enriched to the same levels as similar non-gluten-free products, e.g., gluten-free flours be enriched to the same levels as enriched flour; gluten-free breads to the same levels as enriched bread, etc. Bakery products and snack foods should have levels of enrichment corresponding to the amount of flour replaced. Enrichment levels for standardized wheat flour, bread, alimentary pastes (such as macaroni, spaghetti, noodles, etc.), and breakfast cereals are attached as an appendix.
Getting nutrients into your diet
CCA has developed some handy tip sheets on how to get important micro-nutrients into your diet. Click here.
Gluten-free products that have been enriched must be labelled “gluten-free”. This statement must appear on the principal display panel in close proximity to the common name of the food, e.g., “enriched rice bread”, “gluten-free”, or as part of the common name, e.g., “gluten-free enriched rice bread”. If rice flour were fortified “gluten-free enriched rice flour” would be an acceptable common name.
All vitamin and mineral nutrient preparations added to a gluten-free products must be identified by their correct common names in the ingredient list, and all of the nutrients must be declared in the nutrition panel as a percentage of the Recommended Daily Intake. Information on acceptable sources of fibre and the claims that can be made for them may be obtained from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.
Individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are often confused about alcoholic beverages, especially beer. Beer, ale and lagers are typically made from barley, wheat or rye. Unfortunately these gluten sources were not required to be declared on the label. Beer is not included with other food and beverage labelling standards. Beer was the only prepackaged food that was exempted from labelling priority food allergens and gluten sources. During Celiac Awareness Month in May, the Canadian Celiac Association was pleased to be one of the major advocates for having the beer labelling standards revised by Health Canada. Starting in December 2022, the priority allergens and gluten sources are required to be included on a beer’s label. So you can feel more comfortable reading the label and know whether beer, ale or lager is gluten free.
There are various gluten-free grains such as millet, rice, buckwheat and sorghum that can be malted to make gluten-free beer, ale and lagers produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility. The ELISA test, which is the common test used during manufacturing to test for gluten, cannot accurately measure the gluten content in beer. This means that “gluten-removed” or “gluten-reduced” beers made from barely, wheat or rye are problematic. Because of this issue, Health Canada does not allow these products to be labelled “gluten free” and the CCA recommends that individuals with celiac disease avoid these beers.
It is important to note that other countries have different regulations. For example, some European countries allow gluten-removed beers to be called gluten free, which causes confusion with consumers. Avoid foods and beverages that you are skeptical of when travelling or do your research beforehand to ensure you stay safe while enjoying your vacation.