Last week I started the topic of Gluten free and the Gluten-Free Diet. But what is gluten anyway? These days, more and more food manufacturers are providing gluten-free alternatives to their products, from bagels up to pasta. However, the prevalence has led to a lot of misconceptions. The term “gluten-free” is widely linked with being healthy, but often in the sense of a dieting fad. Not everyone stops to think about what gluten-free really means and why individuals should or should not eat certain foods.
So, What Does it Really Mean to be Gluten Free?
Gluten pertains to the protein found in rye, wheat, and barley and the cross between barley and wheat known as triticale. There are individuals who truly need to follow a gluten-free diet for the sake of their health, such as those with celiac disease; for these people, gluten can result in damage to the lining of small intestines. But the vast majority of people have no problem digesting gluten.
Being gluten-free means eliminate gluten foods or products from your diet. Following any type of diet is challenging but adhering to a gluten-free diet is even more difficult. But with patience, time, and some creativity, you can find ways to effectively substitute gluten-free products and still enjoy the taste of your food. If you are following the advice of a doctor for any type of gluten-sensitive disorder, then you should also consult a nutritionist to help you plan your meals.
Many foods are naturally gluten-free, such as nuts, vegetables, fruits, fresh meats, and some dairy products. To be gluten-free means avoiding bread, desserts, pasta, cereal, beer, and many other foods on an extensive list.
Can Anyone Really Go Gluten-Free?
There is really no serious danger in eliminating gluten. However, if you are eliminating a particular ingredient, take some precaution and be careful in replacing this ingredient. Experts recommend sticking to foods that are naturally gluten-free like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and dairy. However, double check labels for sugar and sodium content.
Experts also recommend paying close attention to your fiber intake; a diet loaded with vegetables, fruits, quinoa, and many other non-gluten grains should help. Individuals are also advised to take multivitamins to ensure that they are getting sufficient vitamin D.
Being Gluten Free Is Not Just About Giving Up Pasta and Bread
Gluten shows up in unexpected places, like in foods containing soy sauce, which often contains hidden traces of wheat. Gluten is also found in potato chips, hot dogs, candy bars, lunch meats, prepared eggs, and salad dressings. Since the lists of ingredients do not usually include the term “gluten,” it can be tricky to spot unless package specifically indicates that it is gluten-free.
You want to avoid things that say, “malt flavor” or “malt extract.” Experts have also found gluten in rye, barley, wheat, and brewer’s yeast. Even if these foods are labeled with “gluten-free,” they might contain gluten due to cross-contamination.
If you are considering removing gluten from your diet, it is best to speak with an expert, regardless of what your reasons are. Avoid self-diagnosis; it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a gluten-free diet.