Blog 1 on Glycemic Index Gluten Free - Why is it important?

  • By lemaster
  • 03 Nov, 2016

Another popular request from our poll for blog topics in the  Be Well Gluten Free  closed Facebook group was learning about the glycemic index on a gluten free diet. It is really very important for wellbeing due to increasing evidence demonstrating that poor quality carbohydrates lead to inflammation and heart disease.

This is one of my favourite topics, and again is a big one so we might break it into a mini-series. Today we’ll look at some of that evidence and at what a low-GI diet ‘means’ a well as at what ‘other’ health benefits low-GI carbs have so you have a good understanding.

Then in the next blog we’ll explore the Australian Dietary Guidelines further along these lines and how to build gluten free carbs into your meals and snacks.

Please check with your health professional before making any changes based on this information as it’s provided at a population level and doesn’t take your personal requirements into consideration.

What evidence exists?

It’s not totally surprising when we find  research like this  paper related to possibly health risks for people with coeliac disease and potentially others on a gluten free diet. This is an area that needs more research, but it’s worth making the change to low-GI foods in the meantime.

This early research paper tells us:

“Compared with the general population, individuals with  celiac disease  were almost twice as likely to have CAD (coronary artery disease), according to a large retrospective study presented here today at the  American College of Cardiology (ACC) 2014 Scientific Sessions  [1]. Even patients younger than aged 65 years were at higher risk.

Celiac disease—a chronic inflammatory condition of the digestive system that can damage the small intestine—was also linked with a 1.4-fold greater risk of stroke.”

And on the side of the glycemic index there’s 30 years worth of scientific evidence demonstrating how a low-GI diet is linked with improved cholesterol levels/blood fats, weight management, lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and  general wellbeing .

What is a low-GI diet?

The  Glycemic Index Foundation  explains this best:

“Carbohydrate is an essential part of our diets, but not all carbohydrate foods are equal. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore usually,  insulin  levels.  A low GI diet is not a fad diet but a way of eating that is sustainable in the long term and backed by over 30 years of scientific evidence.

What  health benefits  do low-GI carbs have?

  • They’ll keep your hunger at bay for longer, helping you to avoid over eating or too much snacking
  • Makes fat easier to burn and less likely to be stored
  • Reduce your triglycerides, total and ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol
  • Increase your levels of ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol
  • Reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce your risk of developing some cancers
  • Reduce your risk of developing certain eye diseases
  • Manage acne
  • Sustain your energy levels longer, improving both mental and physical performance
  • When pregnant, reducing the GI of your diet is one of the safest and most effective ways of ensuring your baby grows at a healthy rate and can affect your child’s future health

So I hope you can see that it makes sense from a population perspective to consider making the swap to maximising lower GI carbs in our day to day eating as the benefits are quite enormous.

In the next blog we’ll take another peak at the Australian Dietary Guidelines to see how easy it is to combine meet the nutrient targets with a low-GI gluten free diet and we’ll talk more about how you can lower the glycemic load of your snacks/meals too.

Please remember that it’s important that you check with your health professional before making changes, and I highly recommend a personalised consultation with an  Accredited Practising Dietitian .

Sally is the owner of her private practice,  Marchini Nutrition , has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too. She is also Social Media Dietitian with  Diabetes Counselling Online , and the dietitian on  The Moon and You App  and works on ‘ Be Well Gluten Free ’ in her spare time.

By proadAccountId-383972 07 Dec, 2016

The holiday season is a wonderful time for socialising with family and friends. Of course that means our intake of ‘sometimes’ foods can become a little out of control, which can cause later regret. We know that eating a balanced diet contributes to a healthy body and a healthy brain which also means greater vitality and a better quality of life as we grow older. So, although it’s the holiday season, try to remain focussed on healthy habits.

We’re spoilt in Australia at this time of year with so many wonderful fresh foods around. They’re full of flavours, textures and nutrients that will keep us bouncing out of our skins. So revel in those delicious foods and lead by example by sharing fresh seasonal foods at social occasions and at home on a day to day basis.

Managing the lead up to Christmas

When it comes to your food shopping over the holiday season, remember that Christmas day itself is just one day. This means you’re better off avoiding tempted by the likes of fruit mince pies, rum balls, Christmas choccies or shortbreads in the lead up to The Big Day, and save your purchases of these ‘sometimes’ foods for your shop for Christmas Day if you really do want them. If you buy them earlier, chances are that you’ll be tempted to have them beforehand. Everyone knows that if you don’t have something in the pantry at home you can’t be tempted to snack on it.

When you consider that these ‘sometimes’ foods that some people associate with Christmas are also considered luxurious, why not fill your shopping trolley with healthy luxurious fresh foods such as:

  • Summer fruits (that we all love!)
  • Fresh or roasted unsalted nuts
  • Brightly-coloured vegetables and salads
  • Tasty homemade dips
  • Quality lean protein sources such as fresh seafood, ham on the bone and lean turkey.

People will appreciate the food even more if they know that you’ve gone to the trouble of preparing fresh and healthy foods that will satisfy the flavour cravings and fill those tummies while also looking after their health.

If you feel that it’s important to have a Christmas cake on hand to serve guests, then why not make your own. That way, you know what’s going into it and your loved ones will appreciate that you made with love by your own hands. This also gives you the opportunity to modify the recipe to include more nutritious gluten free flours such as lentil and chickpea flour rather than refined flours, a little less sugar and healthier fats that are higher in mono- or poly-unsaturated fats such as canola or light olive oil (light in flavour) or even Greek yogurt rather than saturated fats such as butter.

How do we manage Christmas parties?

In the lead up to Christmas Day we look forward to the series of Christmas parties that we all love to attend. Some really helpful tips include:

  • Before you go, eat a good balanced meal. Include low-GI carbs, lean protein and a good serve or two of extra vegetables to take the edge off your hunger. This will help you to make better choices when you’re at the party and help you to avoid overeating of foods you know you’re better off without. It also means more time to socialise, without having to worry about eating for satisfy a grumbling stomach.
  • Watch your alcohol intake. Take a bottle of water or fizzy water with you to either mix with your alcoholic drink or at least to have as an alternate between the alcoholic ones. One of the downsides to drinking too much alcohol is that it often makes your food choices less desirable and while your body is processing the alcohol, the less desirable foods are stored as fat.
  • Offer healthy options (if you’re the host) or take a healthy plate (if you’re a guest). If it’s your party or if you’re taking a plate to someone else’s, you can choose to offer:
    • Lots of fresh vegetables such as blanched asparagus tips and snow peas and flavour burst baby tomatoes
    • Top quality wholegrain gluten free crackers with fresh homemade dips such as an avocado guacamole, hummus and tzatziki. Whenever I take these kinds of dips and dippers, they’re always the first to be finished!
    • Big bowls of roasted unsalted nuts
    • Selections of wonderfully marinated olives and roasted vegetables
    • Tasty and easy to make canapes such as Vietnamese rice paper rolls filled with prawns and fresh grated veggies and vermicelli noodles with a dipping sauce, or gluten free blinis with smoked salmon and a small dollop of Greek Yogurt on top flavoured with lemon zest, black pepper and finely chopped chives as just a few easy ideas.
    • Fresh prawns and oysters are also a great favourite and are lower in calories than you might think!

One of my favourite dips to take to Christmas parties just uses a drained tin of cannellini beans with zest and juice of a lemon or lime, a big handful of fresh parsley, a fresh chilli or two and a clove of fresh garlic or two, salt and pepper to taste, and extra virgin olive oil and water to loosen – just whizz it all together and serve. I find this is very popular with the men with the bold chilli and garlic flavour! The green colour adds to the Christmassy feel when served with green blanched veggies and bright red baby sweet tomatoes. It also works as a good dip for fresh prawns!

Family traditions

For Christmas Day do you have family traditions? Many of us do. In Australia, many families are changing the old fashioned cooked hot Christmas meal for a lighter, cooler option. If your family is one like that does the old-fashioned cooked option and after Christmas day you’re left feeling bloated and heavy, perhaps it’s time to suggest a lighter Christmassy alternative.

It’s also easier to prepare as most if it can be done in advance and stored in the refrigerator, and just brought out on the day to make a delicious smorgasbord of fresh luxurious ingredients that everyone will remember and talk about with their friends. Not to mention, they’ll be left with extra energy and vitality to get on with enjoying our beautiful Australian outdoors.

A nice idea is to start the celebration off with a glass of bubbly to help get everyone in the mood. This can be accompanied by fresh summer fruits such as plump cherries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries and for something savoury try deliciously marinated olives and macadamia nuts (or whichever nuts you prefer).

For the entrée, try something light and fresh that might be as simple as slices of rockmelon wrapped in prosciutto, or a duo of cold Christmas coloured veggie soups (my family’s favourite). We make a green zucchini soup which is just zucchini, potato and fresh tarragon cooked in chicken stock then cooled and whizzed into a smooth soup. It’s delicious and popular with the whole family! And a red soup of course is a tomato based soup full of fresh herbs for added flavour.

For the main, you might still serve the traditional meats, but they can be served cold. In our family, we have a choice of two: a whole leg of ham with a special glaze, and cold turkey with cranberry sauce. Cold seafood selections also work well here. These are served alongside a wonderful array of salads including:

  • Fresh sliced tomatoes with torn mozzarella and fresh basil topped with ground black pepper and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil
  • Baby potatoes served warm tossed in fresh mint leaves and olive oil
  • A quinoa salad with lots of flavourful ingredients such as rocket, toasted pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and fetta or halloumi cheese.
  • Fresh blanched asparagus with quality shaved parmesan on top
  • Steamed green beans topped with slithered almonds
  • A mixed green leaf and avocado salad dressed with fresh herbs and white balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

And then we finish off with a small serve of home-made Christmas cake and a selection of spectacular cheeses served with rye bread or wholegrain crackers, quince paste and summer grapes and figs.

Remember to keep in mind basic food safety tips at Christmas time to avoid food poisoning. The NSW Food Authority has some handy hints, including a fact sheet on ‘Summer Eating’.

All this wonderful, nutrient-rich food will leave you and your guests with very happy tastebuds, tummies and will contribute to everyone’s wellbeing. You’ll be the star of Christmas for sure!

Some useful sites in building your healthy Christmas:,301?ref=zone,christmas-sides-salads

By lemaster 16 Nov, 2016
We’re very fortunate to have this blog written for us at   Be Well Gluten Free   by By Lisa Yates, Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and Program Manager Nuts for Life. It’s special that we’re still in March as this is the month when nuts are harvested so are at their best! Over to you Lisa!
By lemaster 15 Nov, 2016
This morning on Facebook,   a page I follow   asked the question, “What are some of your greatest qualities?”. I answered with just one word – “Balance”. I know, it’s only one word so doesn’t fit the question asking for the plural. It’s more like a headline.
By lemaster 14 Nov, 2016

Thanks to Accredited Practising Dietitian Joanna Baker of Everyday Nutrition for this helpful blog on identifying gluten on labels, helping us to   Be Well Gluten Free :

If you have Coeliac disease, the only way to allow your gut to heal and to avoid symptoms is to follow a strict gluten free diet. Since gluten can be hidden in all sorts of unexpected places, learning to read a label will become one of your most essential skills. It may seem overwhelming at first, but with a little practise you will be able to take charge of your health and find freedom in being able to confidently decide for yourself if something is safe to eat or not.

  1. Naturally gluten free foods.

Many foods are naturally gluten free. They are usually cheap to buy and can easily make up a large portion of a healthy diet. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed and un-marinated cuts of fresh meat, poultry and fish, eggs, bottled water, plain cows milk (flavoured or soy milks may contain gluten), nuts and legumes, fats and oils, plain rice and other gluten free grains. These products may or may not be labelled as “Gluten Free” and unless they are contaminated in processing (see “allergen statements” below) are all suitable for a gluten free diet.

 2.  Gluten free declaration.

If a product is labelled clearly as “gluten free” this overrides all other statements. To carry this statement, the product must have been tested and gluten should be listed as 0g/100g in the nutrition information panel, as shown in the image to the right.

  1. Gluten Free by ingredient

Gluten is the protein found in   Wheat, Barley, Rye, and Oats. In some countries, Oats are considered as suitable for a gluten free diet, however Coeliac Australia recommends Oats are not included as part of a gluten free diet, unless the person has undergone a supervised Oat challenge including biopsy. You can read more about Oats   here .

Some foods are gluten free because they don’t include any gluten containing ingredients. Read the ingredients list and look for wheat (including spelt, semolina and durum), barley (malt), rye, oats and their derivatives. Since Australian law specifies that certain allergens including Wheat or Gluten must clearly be labelled, these are often listed in bold, as shown below.

There are 2 important considerations here:

  • “E-numbers” given to thickeners, colours, preservative and emulsifiers, only identify the function of the ingredient, they do not identify the source of the ingredient. In this case if the ingredient is sourced from wheat it may be labelled as “thickener E1420 (wheat)” or “thickener E1420”. In the first statement the thickener was sourced from wheat and is labelled as such, in the second statement the thickener is not sourced from wheat and is a gluten free ingredient.
  • Glucose syrup is often sourced from wheat and since wheat must be identified is often labelled as “glucose syrup (wheat)” or “wheat glucose syrup”. All sugars ending in “-ose” (e.g. glucose, dextrose) have been highly processed and they no longer contain gluten. Coeliac Australia deems these ingredients as safe for people with coeliac disease. This is also the case for “Caramel Colour”.
  1. Allergen statements
  • “This product contains” statements: As I said earlier according to Australian law certain allergens, including wheat and gluten, must be clearly labelled, you can read about the ingredients covered by this law   here   (). These statements are usually near the ingredients list or nutrition information panel. If a product has an allergen statement for wheat or gluten, look back over the ingredients list to identify which ingredients are the source of wheat or gluten. In the situation that the only source of wheat or gluten is glucose syrup or caramel colour, you can ignore this statement. If however you are unable to identify the source of the wheat or gluten, the product should be avoided.
  • “May contain” statements: these are used when an item is processed in a manner that it may have come into contact with wheat or gluten during processing and the manufacturer can not exclude cross contamination. Coeliac Australia recommends not eating these products.
  1. Two golden rules
  • “No News is Good News”   – if there is no mention of gluten or gluten containing ingredients you can assume the product is safe.
  • “If in Doubt, leave it out”   – Don’t take unnecessary risks with your health. If you are unsure leave it out.

If you are after more information about a product credible sources of information include your local chapter of the Coeliac Society, your own Accredited Practising Dietitian, or the manufacturer of the product. Facebook, twitter, Instagram etc are not reliable sources of information for basing healthcare decisions.

By lemaster 13 Nov, 2016

Being diagnosed with coeliac disease can come as a relief if you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired all the time. At the other end of the spectrum it can be a shock for people who don’t suffer with symptoms and feel perfectly well. Either way there’s quite a steep learning curve and old habits can be hard to break.

It can also be a big adjustment for the other people in your family and other parts of your life. You may feel that it’s all about you, but for people who love you it can be quite traumatic, so try to be mindful of that. It’s important too that blood relatives know that they’re in a high risk group for developing coeliac disease too. Especially if they’re suffering any symptoms they should be tested before starting a gluten free diet. You can find a letter about family screening on the left hand-side of the screen when you follow this  link .

It is a large learning curve for you and for others in your life, which can seem overwhelming at first. The good news is that there is lots of support out there for you and your loved ones.

The other good news is that you have been diagnosed! This puts you a very strong position to move forward and learn how to be well gluten free and still enjoy a delicious range of foods.

By lemaster 12 Nov, 2016

For some years now, gluten free diets have been a huge trend and one that continues to grow.

News from the   CSIRO , recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia, called the trend a “real phenomenon” and stated that in a CSIRO study as many as one in seven Australian respondents , not diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, reported avoiding wheat or dairy foods.

This is in addition to the   one in 70 Australians   with medically diagnosed Coeliac Disease.

For those living gluten free or avoiding wheat, breakfast is often the toughest meal to master.

So here’s a reference that outlines the facts about going gluten free and easy options for brekkie, including details to clear up confusion about whether oats are in or out.

Who needs to go gluten free?

A strict lifelong gluten free diet is required for treatment of medically diagnosed   Coeliac Disease . People who have a medically diagnosed wheat allergy also find gluten free foods helpful because gluten free foods are always wheat free.

A gluten free diet may be used for   non-coeliac gluten sensitivity , but the diagnosis and treatment of this is controversial.

The CSIRO study , which identified one in seven Australian respondents followed a wheat or dairy free diet, confirmed the dietary change was largely self-initiated as a result of an adverse food reaction. It also outlined the resulting risks, including nutritional imbalance and delayed diagnosis of potentially serious medical conditions.

It is extremely important to ensure adverse reactions to gluten are medically diagnosed because self-diagnosis does not work. Even if you feel better reducing gluten, it may not be the cause of your symptoms and you need to identify the real problem and get the right treatment.

For example, for people with gastrointestinal symptoms, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the cause is often a group of food components called   FODMAPS .

There are also many Australians who have adopted a gluten free diet (or are avoiding wheat or grain foods) to lose weight. There is   no evidence to support this  and you may lose or gain weight on a gluten free diet. Going gluten free unnecessarily is not the best option because many grains, especially wheat, are important sources of prebiotics that help create a healthy population of gut bacteria and protect long-term health.

What is gluten?

Gluten   is a protein found in rye, barley, triticale, oats and wheat, including wheat varieties spelt, farro, kamut, durum, plus bulgur and semolina. It’s the very thing that keeps wheat bread light and fluffy after you bake it. A gluten free diet means avoiding all gluten-containing grains, all foods containing related ingredients and any food that may have been cross-contaminated with gluten e.g. a gluten free cake on the same plate as cakes containing gluten.

Eating gluten free

For people who need to follow a gluten free diet, the good news is there are plenty of grains that are naturally gluten free. These include corn, rice, millet, sorghum and teff, plus the ‘pseudo-cereals’ amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat. These grains are the basis of many gluten free foods.

Fresh plain fruit, vegetables, legumes, dairy foods, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fats and oils are also naturally gluten free. Gluten-containing ingredients may be added to these foods in recipes, in restaurants and in food manufacturing. It is best to check the ingredients list and Nutrition Information Panel and on all packaged foods or contact the food manufacturer or restaurant to be sure.

In Australia, foods labelled gluten free are required to contain no detectable gluten.

Confused about oats?

Oats and products containing oats cannot be labelled gluten free in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, oats are not recommended for people with Coeliac Disease because some people with Coeliac Disease are not able to tolerate oats.

However, food standards in Europe and the USA do recognise gluten free oats as suitable for people with Coeliac Disease. More research is clearly required to identify who can or cannot tolerate oats.

Which breakfast cereals can I eat?

If you are eating gluten free or wheat-free, there are a wider range of products available than ever before, including new gluten free versions of family favourites and some liquid breakfast products for when you need brekkie on-the-go.

It can be more difficult to get enough fibre on a gluten free diet, so choose whole grain and higher fibre breakfast cereal options often. You can also add extra fibre by topping your cereal with nuts and seeds (chia, linseeds, sunflower) or gluten free grain products (rice bran, psyllium husks, buckwheat).

Here are some Australian made breakfast cereals to try (listed by manufacturer):


  • Gluten Free Deluxe Muesli (contains rice puffs/flakes)


  • Nutri-Grain liquid breakfast drink
  • Coco Pops liquid breakfast drink

Freedom Foods:

  • Crafted Blends Lemon Myrtle – GF flakes
  • Crafted Blends Berries – GF flakes
  • Toasted Muesli
  • Rainbow Crunch
  • XO Crunch
  • Multigrain Sultana flakes
  • Active Balance Multigrain & Cranberry
  • Active Balance Buckwheat & Quinoa
  • Maple Crunch
  • Berry Good Morning
  • Ancient Grain Flakes
  • Corn Flakes
  • Rice Puffs
  • Rice Flakes
  • Ancient Grains Muesli
  • Fruit & Seeds Muesli


  • Gluten Free Weet-Bix
  • Gluten Free Weet-Bix with sunflower seeds & puffed rice
  • Up&GO Gluten Free

Always get the best advice

This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Please seek advice on your personal health and nutrition needs from your trusted medical advisor and an   Accredited Practising Dietitian   that specialises in treating Coeliac Disease and/or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

October 2015

Leigh Reeve is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and Director of the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum (ABCMF). Leigh has many years experience as a dietitian across a broad range of practice areas.

By lemaster 11 Nov, 2016
Please welcome to   Be Well Gluten Free   a new guest blogger and newly qualified Accredited Dietitian, Joanna Baker, who has coeliac disease herself.
By lemaster 10 Nov, 2016
A guest blog has kindly been written for us for   Be Well Gluten Free   by Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian Lisa Yates on the fascinating topic of avocados. Did you have any idea of the health benefits associated with this delicious food?? Over to you Lisa:
By lemaster 09 Nov, 2016

So that leaves us with fruit and veggies. These are two food groups where you can take the brakes off when it comes to being vigilant about making sure what you are eating is gluten free as fresh fruit and vegetables are all naturally gluten free! Of course if you are buying processed fruit and vegetables (like frozen potato wedges or yoghurt with fruit pieces), or you are eating out, you should always to check to make sure there is no hidden gluten or cross contamination.


When it comes to fruit, eating the whole fruit is a much better option than getting fruit in a juiced form. Eating a whole piece of fruit means you don’t miss out on any of the fibre or other nutrients that can be left behind when a piece of fruit is juiced. Eating a whole piece of fruit is also much more substantial than sipping on a juice and is more filling which helps to satisfy hunger. You can see in the image below that fruit juice and dried fruit are recommended only occasionally and this is due to their high sugar content.

For the most part, it is pretty simple working out what a serve of fruit is. If you eat a whole apple, banana, orange or pear, you have eaten a serve of fruit. It gets a little trickier when the piece of fruit is small (like plums or apricots) or is a type of fruit that you don’t eat by the ‘piece’ (like strawberries, blueberries and grapes). The following are also considered to be one serve of fruit:

  • 2 small plums
  • 2 small apricots
  • 2 small kiwi fruit
  • 2 small mandarins
  • 7-8 strawberries (or 4 if they are those giant ones you sometimes get!)
  • 1 punnet of blueberries
  • 1 small bunch of grapes (150g in weight)
  • 1 cup of canned fruit (in natural juice is the best option as this is lower in sugar)

How big is a serve?

By lemaster 08 Nov, 2016

We’re very fortunate to have one of our contributors to the   Be Well Gluten Free  Facebook group, who is very close to becoming a qualified APD, to cover the next couple of blogs for us. Thanks   Nina Mills   for your guidance on these sometimes tricky issues! And over to Nina:

Sally introduced the Australian Dietary Guidelines in her earlier post   How to follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines Gluten Free   and discussed in detail how to make gluten free choices from the Grains group. I am picking up where she left off to discuss one of the other topics requested on the Be Well Gluten Free Facebook page. And that was: what are the food groups and what is a healthy amount of each to eat?

In these posts we will be focussing on what is recommended for an adult in each of the food groups. Healthy eating guidelines for children and pregnancy are available on the   Eat For Health   website.

So, given that the grains group has been covered, over the next couple of blog posts let’s take a look at the other four food groups and what the best options are if we are aiming to be well, gluten free. Let’s kick things off with the food groups previously known as ‘meat’ and ‘dairy’.

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