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Spotlight on special diets

Nutritional therapist, chef and author Christine Bailey gives us the lowdown on some of the most popular special diets


Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes severe damage to the lining of the small intestine on the ingestion of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

You don’t have to be coeliac to have a problem with gluten. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a condition where intestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms are triggered by gluten ingestion in the absence of coeliac disease and wheat allergy.

There is a strict law that covers the use of the labelling term ‘gluten free’. The term is covered by law and can only be used on foods which contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or less of gluten, making it safe for coeliacs. Gluten-containing ingredients are one of the 14 listed allergens that must be emphasised in the ingredients list.

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Gluten-free flour mixes


When people say they are adopting a ‘sugar free’ diet, what they really mean is that they are reducing their overall sugar intake by avoiding added sugars. Added sugars can be found in a wide range of products – generally the more processed your diet is, the more likely you are to be consuming high levels of added sugars. Remember, nourishing natural foods like fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars as do dairy products like plain yogurt, and these are key healthy staples in a diet.

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A vegan diet is one that avoids all animal products including meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. Some people follow a vegan diet for ethical or environmental reasons, but over the decades research has also demonstrated the many health benefits, including maintaining a healthy weight. You may need to pay attention to certain nutrients including protein, omega-3 fats, iodine, iron, calcium, vitamin D, zinc and B12.

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The raw food diet

Raw veganism is a subset of veganism. Like veganism, it excludes all foods of animal origin. Additionally, it recommends eating foods in a raw state or heated at temperatures below 104–118°F (40–48°C). A raw vegan diet is generally rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains and legumes. It also tends to be naturally low in processed foods. Alternative meal preparation methods, such as juicing, blending, soaking, sprouting and dehydrating are used instead of cooking. It can be difficult, if not planned correctly, to be nutritionally balanced and, like a vegan diet, certain nutrients are likely to be low and require supplementation. Following the diet 100 per cent may be difficult to do in practice, and may result in nutritional deficiencies.

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Following a paleo diet/lifestyle today is not about re-enacting the exact diet/lifestyle of our ancestors. Instead, it’s about embracing the ancestral health principles of their diet and lifestyle within a modern context: eating nutrient-dense, low processed, whole foods, moving our bodies regularly, sleeping at least eight hours a night, managing our stress and playing and having fun. The foods emphasised in the diet are nutrient-dense: organ meats, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, fish and seafood, beef, lamb, and wild game, eggs, vegetables and fruits. While a strict paleo diet avoids dairy, some followers include full-fat dairy.

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Christine Bailey is the author of My Kids Can’t Eat That: How to Deal with Allergies & Intolerances in Children, Go Lean Vegan: The Revolutionary 30-day Diet Plan to Lose Weight and Feel Great and The Raw Food Diet. Christine’s books are available on her website: Xylitol is available in stores as Total Sweet (

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