What is Gluten Anyway?

This is a question that I get all the time. It’s understandable. Well, I would like to take this opportunity to explain what gluten is, why we encounter it so much, whether gluten free is a healthy way to be and my take on being gluten free.

Gluten is the protein found in all forms of wheat, barley and rye grains. It is the stuff that holds baked goods together like glue and it helps them hold their shape. Gluten provides the elasticity in dough and gives the final chewy texture. Bread flour contains more gluten than cake flour. When there is more gluten, like for breads and pizza dough, more kneading is required to work the gluten and produce the optimal texture. Cakes and pastries are best without kneading, but the gluten still helps by stabilizing the shape of the product.

What’s all the hype about? People with Celiacs disease become very ill when they eat gluten. They have no choice but to eat gluten free as a lifelong diet, otherwise their bodies cannot absorb nutrients. Even the slightest bit of cross-contamination, products that are processed on the same equipment as gluten free products, will cause illness. That is why oats are questionable for Celiacs. Needless to say, gluten is a major hazard to people with Celiacs. Then there are people with allergies and intolerances, like me. I, personally, have reflux, heart burn, indigestion, fatigue and migraines. I no longer have these issues, since changing to a gluten free diet. For more info, check out this website about gluten intolerance symptoms.

Is becoming gluten free, healthy? Short answer, Yes. Gluten is everywhere these days. We are completely inundated with it in our fast paced culture and life styles. Besides the obvious- bread, pasta, cereals, pastries and many fried foods, gluten can be found in things like ice cream, ketchup, salad dressings and even some rice cereals with barley malt.  When you have decided to cut gluten out of your diet, the majority of the work is in completely cutting out wheat, barley and rye products.

Reading ingredient labels will become one of the most important activities that you will begin to do on a regular basis. Honing this skill is a vital aspect of being gluten free. By reading labels and cutting out gluten products, you have already made a huge step in a healthy direction whether you add things back in or not. Eating whole, unprocessed foods is always the best way to live healthfully. Check out this great article, by The Soft Landing, about how eating whole foods can lower BPA (a chemical found in plastics) by 60%.

Ingredient labels do not always say “Gluten free”, and “Wheat free” does not mean that a product is gluten free. Stay away from any form of wheat, barley, rye and even splet. Labels are required to indicate if the product contains wheat, if there are trace amounts of wheat, or if the product was processed in the same facility as a wheat product.

Next step…figuring out what you can eat. There are many products available at most any supermarket these days, which are gluten free. These are a good substitute, especially when you are in a pinch or have a craving. Although, most store-bought gluten free products are pricey. My recommendation, learn to make your favorite items, yourself. That’s where I come in. I believe that if you are going to make the effort to cook gluten free, why not make it as nutritional as possible? I bake gluten free without using rice and potato products. There isn’t as much nutrition in them as there is in other flours, and we are already eating them in abundance do to the fact that they are main substituting starches.

Now that you have an idea of where I’m coming from, let’s make this journey to excellent health, together!

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