Thursday, October 10, 2013

what is gluten?

This was a little research report I did for my nutrition class recently. I thought it would be nice to just share some info!

The Gluten Project

What is gluten?

Gluten is the term used for the compound protein found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is found in any food product that uses these grains. Some commonly known food products that contain gluten are bread, flour, pasta, tortillas, crackers, cakes, and cereal. Oats do not naturally contain gluten, but they are commonly processed on the same machinery, so they are cross-contaminated.

There are hundreds of food products out there that we wouldn’t even guess contain gluten. Since gluten is the part of the grain responsible for making things thick and starchy, it is used to add texture in everything from chocolate bars, to salad dressings, to low fat ice cream. A few other unsuspecting gluten carriers are soy sauce, mustard, hot dogs, pickles, and chewy candies. Even instant coffee and ground beef can have gluten added to it to bulk it up.

Can I eat gluten?

People who cannot eat gluten have Celiac disease, also known as Celiac Sprue. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes your defensive white blood cells to attack your own small intestine. The damage and inflammation to the lining of the small intestine inhibits absorption of nutrients and water. It is triggered by gluten and common symptoms are malnutrition, weight loss, diarrhea, stomach pain, and fatigue. Celiac disease is genetic, and it may appear later in life, as your body becomes more intolerant to gluten. Not everyone who has Celiac Sprue in their genes has Celiac disease, or they may just not have it yet.

The treatment for Celiac disease is a gluten free diet. There are many gluten free products available today, including, gluten free tortillas, crackers, cookies, and oats. There are many other fiber and nutrient packed grains that don’t contain gluten as well such as quinoa, millet, rice, amaranth, and buckwheat. Also available are non-wheat, non-gluten flours. Some easy substitutes are coconut flour, garbanzo flour, millet flour, quinoa flour, or buckwheat flour.

It is important for someone with Celiac disease to eat a diet of unprocessed whole foods, and foods they make themselves. This way, there can be no hidden gluten. 

It has come to my attention that a lot of people who buy gluten free products and leave gluten out of there diets may be missing out on essential nutrients. A gluten free diet doesn't mean a healthier diet. Whole grains are very good for us, if we can digest them. So, with this information, choose your diet wisely, and listen to your body. My advice to you would be; if you can eat gluten, eat it in healthy whole grains, because there is no reason not to.

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