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.
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. The document can be accessed here, and the French version is available 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.
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.
Getting nutrients into your diet
The CCA has developed some handy tip sheets on how to get important micro-nutrients into your diet.