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Gluten-Free Atkins? It's Possible!

June 28, 2014
Colette Heimowitz

You don’t have to go far to see the term “gluten-free” on store shelves or restaurant menus. Gluten is the protein in wheat that gives dough its elasticity, and many people now claim to feel healthier and better (and even lose weight) when they don’t eat gluten or cut back on it. For those with celiac disease (about 1% of the population), eating foods containing gluten can cause everything from irritability and depression to abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.

About 6% of the population has been diagnosed with gluten intolerance, and, most likely due to a higher understanding of and bigger emphasis on food allergies, digestive health and genetic modification of grains, a quarter of Americans are cutting down on gluten or going gluten-free. When you avoid or cut back on gluten, you are naturally eliminating a highly processed grain, which explains why Atkins can be a gluten-free-friendly weight-loss program.

In early Phases, the whole foods recommended on Atkins have always been gluten-free. You may even discover your sensitivity to carbohydrates and gluten when you first start Atkins and eliminate carbohydrate-dense foods during Induction. If you start to feel worse once you reintroduce grains or flour in later Phases, you may have a reduced ability to process them, a kind of carb intolerance. And you may be sensitive to gluten.

If you are sensitive to gluten, even complex carbs like whole-grain wheat could wreak havoc on your ability to lose weight and lead to a variety of other health woes. Although gluten-free and low-carb are not one and the same, you can follow Atkins and be completely gluten-free. As you progress through the Phases, once you hit Phases 3 and 4, closely watch your body’s reaction to whole grains. If you start experiencing discomfort or you are unable to continue to lose weight or maintain your weight loss, slowly cut back on the new carbs you have introduced until you start feeling better.

Your Guide to Gluten

Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and any foods made with these grains. These include but are not limited to:

  •    White Flour
  •    Whole Wheat Flour
  •    Durum Wheat
  •    Graham Flour
  •    Triticale
  •    Kamut
  •    Semolina
  •    Spelt
  •    Wheat Germ
  •    Wheat Bran

Common foods that are usually made with wheat include:

  •    Pasta
  •    Couscous
  •    Bread
  •    Flour Tortillas
  •    Cookies
  •    Cakes
  •    Muffins
  •    Pastries
  •    Cereal
  •    Crackers
  •    Beer
  •    Oats 
  •    Gravy
  •    Dressings
  •    Sauces

You may not expect it, but the following foods can also contain gluten:

  •    Soups 
  •    Breadcrumbs and croutons
  •    Some candies
  •    Fried foods
  •    Imitation fish
  •    Some lunch meats and hot dogs
  •    Malt
  •    Matzo
  •    Modified food starch
  •    Seasoned chips and other seasoned snack foods
  •    Salad dressings
  •    Self-basting turkey
  •    Soy sauce
  •    Seasoned rice and pasta mixes