Gluten is a general term for a group of plant storage proteins that grow in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Gluten makes baked products more elastic, helps them rise and often gives them a chewy consistency. If you have celiac disease, however, your body launches an autoimmune attack when you eat foods containing these grains. Potatoes offer a healthy, gluten-free alternative.
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Potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams are free from gluten, according to the Celiac Sprue Association. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness recommends potato flour and potato starch as gluten-free alternatives to flours and starches made from wheat, rye and barley.
If you have celiac disease, your body identifies the gluten from wheat, barley and rye as a foreign body and tries to destroy it. This autoimmune response damages the villi -- tiny projections on the inside of your small intestines. The villi lose the ability to absorb essential nutrients from food, and you may become malnourished. Since potatoes are gluten-free, you won’t have an autoimmune response to eating them, and your villi can stay intact.
Potatoes are a valuable source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for individuals with celiac disease. They’re high in soluble and insoluble fiber that promotes normal bowel function, heart health, blood glucose control and weight management. A ½-cup portion of boiled potatoes with the skin delivers 1.6 g of dietary fiber, while the same serving without skins contains 1.4 g. A small baked potato with skin delivers 3 g of fiber.
Some potato dishes served in fast food and regular restaurants contain gluten. Watch out for potatoes breaded in wheat flour, as well as potato skins made with seasonings containing gluten. Condiments such as gravy, sauces, dairy substitutes and salad dressing may contain significant amounts of gluten. When you prepare potato dishes at home, ensure that you have thoroughly cleaned cooking surfaces, bowls, utensils and pans to avoid cross-contamination from gluten-laden foods.