a substance present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. A mixture of two proteins, it causes illness in people with celiac disease.
Gluten. It is hard to imagine the world without it. It is ingrained (see what i did there?) in the lives of almost every single person on the planet and forms a core ingredient of many of the world’s staple food items. But with more people than ever before now trying to avoid it; it is becoming more important to know exactly what it is. Why are so many people cutting it out of their diet and is this something we should all be thinking about?
Gluten is basically the protein found in wheat, rye and barley (and various cross bred cereals). It is what produces the elasticity in the dough that we use to make bread, cakes, and other baked goods. It is also a good sticking agent in many sauces. Gluten is actually composed of two different proteins: gliadin (a prolamin protein) and glutenin (a glutelin protein).
Some people cannot break down the gluten from wheat and related grains during digestion, which can damage their intestines. This is known as celiac disease. People can also have a wheat allergy, which causes symptoms like many other food allergies; skin irritation, respiratory reactions etc.
Recently, scientists have become aware of another potential form of intolerance called nonceliac gluten sensitivity. After consuming gluten, patients with gluten sensitivity may experience many celiac disease symptoms, such as diarrhea, fatigue and joint pain, but don’t appear to have damaged intestines.
In all these cases, doctors typically recommend a gluten-free diet. But an increasing number of people without a gluten allergy or intolerance are now cutting out gluten, some to lose weight, and others because they say it just makes them feel better. It is very likely however that for people without a diagnosed gluten allergy, that ‘feeling better’ and losing weight when cutting out gluten is simply because it encourages you to eat healthier, rather than an underlying gut problem. Experts worry that going on these diets without explicitly needing to could be detrimental to a person’s health, as gluten-free foods are often nutrient-deficient.
Whatever your reasons are for wanting to reduce the amount of gluten in your diet; here are some CAN and CAN NOT foods to try!
The following grains and starches can be part of a gluten-free diet:
- Corn and cornmeal
- Gluten-free flours (rice, soy, corn, potato, bean)
- Hominy (corn)
Taste Safari has come fantastic quinoa recipes, like this salad with cottage cheese and pomegranate!
- Barley (malt, malt flavoring and malt vinegar are usually made from barley)
- Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
Avoiding wheat can be challenging because wheat products go by numerous names. Consider the many types of wheat flour on supermarket shelves — bromated, enriched, phosphated, plain and self-rising. Here are other wheat products to avoid:
- Durum flour
- Graham flour
Avoid unless labeled ‘gluten-free’
In general, avoid the following foods unless they’re labeled as gluten-free or made with corn, rice, soy or other gluten-free grain:
- Cakes and pies
- Cookies and crackers
- French fries
- Imitation meat or seafood
- Processed luncheon meats
- Salad dressings
- Sauces, including soy sauce
- Seasoned rice mixes
- Seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips
- Self-basting poultry
- Soups and soup bases
- Vegetables in sauce
Certain grains, such as oats, can be contaminated with wheat during growing and processing stages of production. For this reason, doctors and dietitians generally recommend avoiding oats unless they are specifically labeled gluten-free.
For a lovely gluten-free cake recipe, click here!