Eating a healthy, gluten-free diet is easy to do if you stick to natural, unprocessed foods. Although I enjoy bread or crackers on occasion (and maybe even a cookie or two), I have found that sticking to naturally gluten-free foods at least 85% of the time helps me feel my best. This article lists 10 naturally gluten-free foods every person with celiac disease can safely eat and that is good for you too. Please see my disclosures.
One of the best ways to heal the body in the aftermath of a celiac disease diagnosis is to eat as naturally gluten-free as possible. And the good news is that there is a long list of naturally gluten-free foods to choose from.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats, and it triggers the immune system to mistakenly attack the healthy tissue surrounding the small intestine, resulting in a slew of annoying and painful symptoms.
Following a gluten-free diet at home can be easy to do when you stick to this list of naturally gluten-free foods and steer clear of packaged foods, processed foods, and fast foods and instead cook with as many whole, straight-from-the-earth foods as possible.
If you have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, autoimmune disease, and/or are following a strict gluten-free diet for another reason, below are 10 naturally gluten-free food groups you should load up on!
(1) Vegetables and Fruits
The wondrous world of glorious greens and luscious fruits awaits those of you who can’t digest gluten.
I loaded up on fresh fruits and vegetables in the years following my celiac disease diagnosis in order to flood my body with foods that promote healing.
Greens like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens are truly some of the best gluten-free “medicines” you can find. Load up on greens any chance you get, and consider juicing fresh greens to fast-track your healing.
Remember, many vegetables and fruits offer unique medicinal properties. Mushrooms, for example, contain cancer-fighting properties, and tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which has been shown to improve heart health and lower the risk of certain types of cancer.
Every piece of vegetable or fruit contains a cocktail of vitamins and minerals that promotes health in your cells and builds whole-body immunity.
And don’t listen to people who tell you to avoid fruit because it contains sugar. Sugar in fruit (fructose) comes perfectly packaged with plenty of fiber and essential nutrients that aid in the proper digestion of that fruit.
This means you can and should enjoy berries, kiwis, citrus fruits, apples, and more. There’s nothing like satisfying your sweet tooth while getting essential vitamins and important fiber at the same time!
(2) Amazing Whole Grains
While wheat, rye, barley, and other gluten-containing grains are off-limits, there is still a world of amazing gluten-free whole grains that await you. Brown rice, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat (kasha) are just a few of the gluten-free grains that are naturally gluten-free.
Oats are also naturally gluten-free; however, they are notoriously cross-contaminated with wheat during the farming process. You must only eat oats labeled “gluten-free” or, better yet, “certified gluten-free.”
While many people following a gluten-free diet don’t tolerate dairy well, dairy is a naturally gluten-free food and safe to eat if you have celiac disease.
Milk and yogurt are almost always gluten-free, as are most cheeses (although some specialty cheeses are not gluten-free – like blue cheese – check labels).
While I’m not a proponent of eating lots of dairy when you’re trying to heal your gut, as dairy is a high-inflammatory food, someone in good overall health and who can tolerate dairy well should feel okay doing so.
I recommend consuming organic dairy and dairy products from animals free from antibiotics and artificial growth hormones.
Furthermore, if you cannot tolerate dairy, you can also enjoy most alternative “milk” products made with almonds, cashews, coconut, soy, and rice products (check labels carefully when enjoying oat milk alternatives). These products offer a dairy-free option to this beloved food group.
Beef is a-okay to enjoy on a gluten-free diet and is naturally gluten-free. I recommend enjoying pasture- and ethically-raised beef over factory farm beef when possible in order to mitigate your risk of eating pesticides and sick animals given excessive hormones and prophylactic antibiotics.
Most cows are fed grasses and grains, but what they eat (even if it’s wheat) does not impact the meat. In other words, beef does not contain gluten unless the manufacturer adds it to the final product during processing.
While poultry, such as chicken and turkey, should not be mistaken as health food, it’s still a naturally gluten-free food you can safely enjoy on a gluten-free diet.
Look for chicken that is organic, pasture-raised, and labeled free-range when possible. When consuming any animal products, it’s wise to buy the highest quality you can find.
Fish is a delicious naturally gluten-free food that is also an excellent source of high quality fats.
Fatty fish, such as salmon and shellfish, offer a good source of omega 3 essential fatty acids, which has been proven to control and even lower inflammation in your body. You can also get the benefits of fish through a high-quality fish oil supplement.
(6) Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a good source of essential fats and can help with brain function, weight loss, and improving your overall health. And, of course, all seeds and nuts are naturally gluten-free.
Choose from almonds, walnuts, and cashews, as well as pumpkin and sunflower seeds. All are fantastic sources of fat and will fuel your body so it functions optimally. I also love baking with almond flour whenever possible.
If you buy packaged nuts and seeds, read labels carefully as sometimes they are cross-contaminated with wheat during the manufacturing process. Also, avoid buying nuts and seeds from the bulk bins at the grocery store, where gluten cross-contamination is rampant.
Eggs are a great protein source, fairly cheap, and a naturally gluten-free food.
Eat the whole egg (yolk included!) and look for pasture-raised, free-range eggs. Such chickens are soaking in the sun and feeding off the lay of the land. This means the eggs will be loaded with vital nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids, too.
(8) Beans & Lentils
Beans and lentils are also naturally gluten-free and offer an excellent source of fiber. They also fill you up so you feel full longer, which can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Lentils will often come with a “may contain wheat” warning label, and this is due to the fact that lentils can sometimes become commingled with other grains.
It’s important to visually sort your lentils to remove any foreign grains or seeds, as well as rinse and soak your lentils before eating them. Read more about this topic in my article, Are Lentils Gluten Free?
You can enjoy beans found in a can and in a bag, again, check labels carefully. Also, avoid buying dried beans and lentils from the bulk bins at the grocery store due to the potential of gluten cross-contamination.
(9) Herbs & Spices
Spice is the variety of life, so spice up meal time with naturally gluten-free herbs and spices.
Fresh herbs will always be your best and safest bet against gluten cross-contamination. Try mint, basil, oregano, thyme, cilantro, parsley, and dill – all will spice up your meal without any worry of potential gluten exposure.
When buying dried spices, check the label to ensure it doesn’t contain any gluten or questionable ingredients. For example, the only ingredient in dried basil should be basil.
Good news! It’s okay to eat a little chocolate. Now this is something to celebrate!
When enjoying chocolate, read labels carefully. Cheap brands may add fillers that may contain gluten (like barley malt in candy bars), and some candy may contain gluten in the form of crispy malted rice or graham crackers, for example.
However, a solid piece of dark chocolate (I like 70% cacao and up) should be naturally gluten-free. It also contains some good fats and antioxidants.
Naturally Gluten-Free Foods Rock
Getting diagnosed with a gluten disorder can seem like the end of good eating, but the truth is, many people use it as a reason to clean up their diets and eat as many whole, real, and naturally gluten-free foods as possible.
Please note that there are plenty of packaged foods that are labeled gluten-free and can be enjoyed as well. Read my list of 200+ Foods You Can Eat on the Gluten-Free Diet, which includes naturally gluten-free foods and packaged food options.
My mantra is to eat naturally gluten-free 85% of the time, and the rest of the time, I enjoy eating out or a treat. No one eats perfectly, nor should you.
As long as a food is gluten-free, you are on the right path. I’m the first to recognize that the gluten-free diet can be difficult for many people as there is a high emotional burden to the gluten-free diet.
Overall, eat in a way that feels good to you, and the healing will follow. Just don’t cheat and eat gluten, and you’ll be golden.