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Blog Nutrition Diets Mediterranean The Gluten-Free Mediterranean Diet: How It Works, Benefits, And Tips For Getting Started

The Gluten-Free Mediterranean Diet: How It Works, Benefits, And Tips For Getting Started

gluten free mediterranean

The Gluten-Free Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating that focuses on fresh, natural foods. The diet also includes wine and olive oil. The focus of this diet is to provide your body with the nutrients it needs for optimal health without any gluten or dairy products. This type of eating plan has been shown to be beneficial in reducing inflammation and weight gain, as well as improving lipid profiles. It can even help prevent heart disease! This article will cover how the gluten-free Mediterranean diet works, what benefits are included, and tips for starting this new lifestyle today.

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What Are The Principles Of The Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet is an eating plan inspired by the traditional eating habits of people living in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. 

The typical Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and cereal grains; moderate amounts of fish and poultry; a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets; regular but moderate amounts of wine (19). Many variations exist within the basic principles outlined above.

The Mediterranean diet pyramid offers guidelines for daily meal choices and includes the following food items:

Fruits And Vegetables

All fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and fruit juices, as well as all fresh or frozen vegetables. Leafy green vegetables are emphasized over other types of vegetables. A variety of colors – especially reds and greens – can provide a healthy diet with lots of antioxidants (8). Also, try to incorporate legumes regularly (beans, peas, lentils).

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Grains

Choose whole grains whenever possible. At least half of your total grain intake should come from whole grains.

Starches

All types of bread that are made with 100% whole wheat or enriched flour are good options. Pasta is fine too, but only if it is enriched pasta or whole-wheat pasta.

Protein

A variety of fish and poultry are encouraged, including omega-3 fatty acids containing species such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, or sardines. Dairy products are not included in the main recommendations but are permitted in some variations of the diet. Lean meat is acceptable, but red meat should be eaten sparingly. 

Eggs can also be part of your daily intake. Nuts may be incorporated into meals for a healthy fat boost, but they are high in calories, so don’t overdo it (11). Legumes (beans, peas, lentils) can provide an additional boost of protein to your diet too.

gluten free mediterranean

Dairy Products

These are low-fat or nonfat yogurt, low-fat cheese, or feta.

Read More: The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid: Use This To Start A Heart-Healthy Way Of Eating

Oils

The main fats should come from fish, nuts, and olive oil, a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Canola oil may be used instead but sparingly, as it is a low-cost industrial seed oil that does not have the same healthful profile as the regular cold-pressed extra virgin olive oils abundant in Mediterranean countries. Olive oil can be combined with fresh herbs and spices for better absorption and reduced risk of oxidation (rancidity) (4).

Beverages

Water, tea (herbal or regular), coffee (caffeinated or decaf), and red wine (in moderation) are fine options. Remember that alcohol should only be consumed by adults of the legal drinking age and only in moderation.

The Mediterranean diet also encourages regular physical activity and getting plenty of rest, as well as enjoying your meals with family and friends. These components are all essential to an overall healthy lifestyle!

gluten free mediterranean

Health Benefits Of The Mediterranean Diet

Research has proven several benefits of the Mediterranean diet, including:

Cancer

Numerous studies have shown that following a Mediterranean diet is associated with decreased risk of developing and dying from cancer. Research shows that women who followed the Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop breast cancer than their counterparts, while men who followed the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of prostate cancer (6) (18). 

Overall, research has linked the Mediterranean diet plan to reduced risk in both sexes for at least seven types of cancer: colorectal, pancreas, breast, prostate, stomach, liver, and aerodigestive cancers (7). 

Heart Disease

Research has revealed that heart disease can be prevented or at least reduced by following the Mediterranean diet. Studies show that those who closely follow a Mediterranean diet have a 50% lower risk of heart problems than people who do not adhere to the Mediterranean diet (14).

gluten free mediterranean

Stroke

Many studies have concluded that following a healthy lifestyle contributes to reducing stroke risk factors, including stroke recurrence later in life. Eating foods high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium, along with low levels of trans fats, can reduce blood pressure levels and help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease conditions like stroke or heart attack. 

Studies show that individuals who strongly followed the traditional Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain) and ischemic stroke (clot-caused stroke) (2).

Diabetes

A Mediterranean diet rich in fiber can help reduce blood sugar levels and decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Participants in a study who followed the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) plan with a high intake of nuts, whole grains, and fruits experienced decreased fasting blood sugar levels (17). Other studies have shown that following a Mediterranean diet reduces insulin resistance, which can help protect against type 2 diabetes (15).

gluten free mediterranean

Cognitive decline

A review of existing research published in 2010 found that adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet may help protect against cognitive decline as we age (1). Researchers found that those who consumed all three meals from a Mediterranean diet each day had a reduced risk for mild cognitive impairment compared to those who only followed the plan some days (13). 

Alzheimer’s Disease

One study revealed that older adults who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, including slower rates of cognitive decline (16). Research shows that participants who closely adhered to the Mediterranean diet were at a lower risk for developing the disease than their counterparts who only followed it some days.

Gastrointestinal disorders

Dietary intake has been linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) risk. Clinical studies have shown that following a Mediterranean diet plan rich in fiber, vegetables, and fish or taking probiotics can help reduce inflammation or digestive problems like bloating, cramping, and diarrhea (3).

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See also  Gluten-Free Diet Weight Loss Diet: Is It An Effective Solution For Stubborn Fat?

gluten free mediterranean

Why Go Gluten-Free?

Gluten’s most common function in the human diet is to provide elasticity and chewiness to baked products, such as bread and cakes.

Gluten intolerance means that your body has a hard time digesting gluten and the proteins it is made up of. This intolerance can cause symptoms like chronic diarrhea; constipation or gas; fatigue,; bone or joint pain; weight loss; depression; numbness in the legs, arms, and fingers; migraines and headaches; along with many others (even neurological symptoms such as brain fog).

The most common form of gluten intolerance (and the one with the most obvious symptoms) is celiac disease or CD. It’s estimated that about 1% of the world’s population has a CD (5). However, many people are not diagnosed because they don’t realize they have it and go undiagnosed for decades. Type 1 Diabetes, or T1D, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells responsible for producing insulin, making it necessary to take insulin injections.

For people without CD or T1D, gluten consumption still triggers an autoimmune response in the gut that can lead to celiac-like symptoms, intestinal damage, and other serious health conditions. This condition is called “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” or NCGS (9).

Going gluten-free is one of the best things people with T1D can do to improve their blood sugar control and overall health. It can also help those with CD and NCGS.

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How To Combine Gluten Free And Mediterranean Diet?

People who follow a gluten-free diet have high intakes of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fish. Combining this with a plant-based Mediterranean diet, it is easy to see how you can enhance your overall health. 

The gluten-free diet requires the elimination of all wheat, rye, and barley. These are all included in traditional Mediterranean (10) diets, so it is important to find substitutes for them to create a gluten-free Mediterranean diet. 

Also included in the gluten-free Mediterranean meal plan will be dairy products such as yogurt and cheese; eggs; meat, such as poultry, beef, or lamb; fish and shellfish; nuts like almonds and hazelnuts; beans like chickpeas and black beans; and extra virgin olive oil as the main source of fat.

gluten free mediterranean

Here are some ideas on how to transform your favorite dishes into healthier, gluten-free options:

  • Instead of regular pasta, use rice pasta
  • Use bulgur wheat instead of couscous
  • Replace barley with brown rice
  • Substitute quinoa for white or wild rice
  • Replace risotto with millet risotto 
  • Instead of white bread, use gluten-free alternatives like quinoa bread, buckwheat bread, brown rice bread, or sourdough spelt bread
  • Go gluten-free when you order in a restaurant (Gluten hides in many foods, including soy sauce, salad dressing, balsamic vinegar, and even French fries)
  • When baking at home, make sure your flour mixture is gluten-free by using gluten-free flours like brown rice flour, almond meal, or sorghum flour instead of regular wheat flour.

Read More: Mediterranean Diet 30-Day Meal Plan 1500 Calories: Lose Weight With Delicious Foods

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Sample Gluten-Free Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan

Here are a few meal options for this diet plan:

Day One

  • Breakfast: Quinoa bowl almond milk and a banana
  • Snack: Fresh fruit and a handful of nuts like almonds or walnuts
  • Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich (made using white albacore tuna) on sourdough spelt bread; Greek yogurt with berries for dessert
  • Snack: Pear slices dipped in cashew butter; cup of black coffee
  • Dinner: Grilled steak; roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus drizzled with extra virgin olive oil; cup of green tea

gluten free mediterranean

Day Two

  • Breakfast: Chia seed pudding made with almond milk and berries
  • Snack: Apple slices topped with a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • Lunch: Egg salad sandwich made with hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, chopped celery, onions, and light mayo
  • Snack: Cucumber slices topped with guacamole 
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with lemon juice, salt, and pepper served with roasted asparagus and onions; cup of green tea

Day Three

  • Breakfast: Gluten-free toast topped with mashed avocado and a poached egg; cup of black coffee
  • Snack: Gluten-free crackers topped with goat cheese and chia seed jam
  • Lunch: Quinoa bowl topped with shredded carrots, cucumbers, sprouts, and toasted almonds
  • Snack: Orange slices and a handful of peanuts
  • Dinner: Gluten-free pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and fresh basil; a glass of rosé

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Day Four 

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal made with almond milk and topped with fresh berries; cup of black coffee
  • Snack: Gluten-free muffins
  • Lunch: Pear salad made with arugula, spinach, toasted almonds, goat cheese, and olive oil
  • Snack: Gluten-free homemade granola 
  • Dinner: Stuffed peppers made with ground turkey, brown rice, tomatoes, and cilantro; a glass of red wine

Day Five

  • Breakfast: Eggs any style served with gluten-free toast 
  • Snack: Avocado, tomato, and cucumber slices drizzled with olive oil 
  • Lunch: Chicken stir-fry made with bok choy, mushrooms, carrots, and peanuts; cup of green tea 
  • Snack: Steamed broccoli drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with toasted almonds (use sunflower seeds instead of almonds if you are allergic)
  • Dinner: Baked halibut topped with lemon juice, salt, and pepper; roasted sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts; glass of red wine

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See also  28-Day Mediterranean Diet Plan: Should You Give It A Try Or Not?

gluten free mediterranean

Tips For Making The Gluten-Free Mediterranean Diet Work For You

Below are a few tips to help you with the Mediterranean diet:

  • Eat a variety of foods from each food group, making sure to get enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products to maintain a healthy diet.
  • Store-bought substitutes can be expensive, so cook at home whenever possible.
  • If you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, double-check ingredient lists for added fillers that contain gluten. Avoid foods with hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), malt vinegar, or barley malt syrup. MSG can also be hidden behind these ingredients.
  • If you must go out to eat, make sure the establishment has an allergen menu. While at a restaurant, tell your server that you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity to avoid cross-contamination. Also, ask if the menu items contain gluten before ordering. 
  • Be aware of cross-contamination in food preparation areas or when eating at restaurants. Gluten is very easy to find when cooking and even when dining out, so ask about ingredients before ordering if you’re not sure.
  • You can still enjoy your favorite foods by using gluten-free alternatives that are just as tasty and nutritious.
  • Choose naturally gluten-free foods when possible, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat, and fish (12). This applies to mealtimes as well as snack time. 
  • To make sure your food is safe from hidden sources of gluten, always read labels on any pre-packaged foods. If you are unsure about ingredients listed on the food label, contact the manufacturer directly to inquire about whether their product contains gluten.
  • If you accidentally ingest gluten, don’t be discouraged—symptoms can vary from person to person depending on how much they ingested and their sensitivity level.

Conclusion

The Gluten-Free Mediterranean Diet can help you lose weight, boost your energy levels, and improve your overall health. It allows you to enjoy delicious food options while maintaining a healthy diet. If the thought of giving up bread or pasta is too difficult for you to consider, there are gluten-free versions available on the market today! Make sure your pantry is stocked with these products before beginning this diet plan so that it’s easy for you to transition into following the GFMD.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet Protects from Cognitive Decline in the Invecchiare in Chianti Study of Aging (2018, mdpi.com)
  2. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and risk of stroke and stroke subtypes (2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. An Examination of Diet for the Maintenance of Remission in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (2017, mdpi.com)
  4. Antioxidant Activity of Spices and Their Impact on Human Health: A Review (2017, mdpi.com)
  5. Celiac Disease (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Conformity to traditional Mediterranean diet and breast cancer risk in the Greek EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) cohort (2010, academic.oup.com)
  7. Does a Mediterranean-Type Diet Reduce Cancer Risk? – Current Nutrition Reports (2016, link.springer.com)
  8. Effect of fruit and vegetable antioxidants on total antioxidant capacity of blood plasma (sciencedirect.com)
  9. Gluten: A Benefit or Harm to the Body? (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
  10. Gluten-free diet (2021, mayoclinic.org)
  11. Health Benefits of Nut Consumption(2010, mdpi.com)
  12. Healthy diet (2020, who.int)
  13. Mediterranean Diet and Mild Cognitive Impairment | Dementia and Cognitive Impairment (2009, jamanetwork.com)
  14. Mediterranean diet and prevention of coronary heart disease in the elderly (2007, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  15. Mediterranean Diet Effects on Type 2 Diabetes Prevention, Disease Progression, and Related Mechanisms. A Review (2020, mdpi.com)
  16. Nutritional prevention of cognitive decline and dementia (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  17. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Pattern in Special Populations (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  18. The Mediterranean Diet Reduces the Risk and Mortality of the Prostate Cancer: A Narrative Review (2017, frontiersin.org)
  19. What is the Mediterranean Diet? (2020, heart.org)
Eve Chalicha

Eve is a freelance writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She has a passion for promoting good health and well-being and believes that education is the first step towards changing lives for the better.
For the past few years, Eve has been writing about topics such as nutrition, fitness, natural remedies, and more.
Thanks to her background in Legal studies, she has a knack for research and always prioritizes scientific facts over hearsay. She is also very socially conscious and ensures that her pieces inform and empower readers.
When she's not writing, Eve enjoys watching documentaries, going on nature walks, or just hanging out with friends.

J. Paul

Jovial is from Dubai, and is a Head EMS Instructor/Fitness Manager/Nutrition Consultant for REMS Fitness. He is certified by the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and Registered as a Gym Instructor.
Jovial specialises in HIIT training, Rehabilitation/injury recovery, Strength and Conditioning, Kickboxing, Body Weight Training and Weight Training, and practices each discipline himself. His approach is to focus on improving his clients’ lifestyle by motivating them and setting an example.

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