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Gluten: Friend, Foe, or Fad


Whatever gluten means to you, here is the rundown to help you eliminate gluten-free healthfully. Keep in mind that gluten free does not necessarily mean healthier: Cheetos Crunchy Cheddar Jalapeño Cheese Flavored Snacks are gluten-free. In case you were wondering. Why are people going GF? Gluten is the common name for proteins that are found

Whatever gluten means to you, here is the rundown to help you eliminate gluten-free healthfully. Keep in mind that gluten free does not necessarily mean healthier: Cheetos Crunchy Cheddar Jalapeño Cheese Flavored Snacks are gluten-free. In case you were wondering.

Why are people going GF?

Gluten is the common name for proteins that are found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is a general term for prolamins, which are the proteins found in grains. Strictly speaking, gluten is a protein found only in wheat. Wheat prolamins are called gliadin. Barley prolamins are hordein. Rye prolamins are secalin. These are the three types of prolamins that are harmful to people with celiac disease. Other examples of prolamins like orzenin from rice or zein from corn are safe for individuals with celiac disease to eat.

Celiac disease is a type of autoimmune disease that is genetically inherited. An autoimmune disease is a condition where the immune system damages the body in response to something it identifies as harmful. In the case of celiac disease the body identifies gluten as harmful. The reaction causes inflammation in the small intestine, which reduces absorption of vital nutrients. Symptoms include weight loss, tiredness, rash, iron-deficiency anemia, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and excess gas. If you are concerned that you may have celiac disease you should discuss testing with your physician.

The only treatment at this time is an elimination diet. There are different reasons that people eliminate gluten from their diets. A person may be intolerant, have an allergy, have celiac disease, or just wish to follow gluten-free as a lifestyle choice.

 

 Where is gluten lurking?

Gluten is often found in thickening agents for gravies or sauces, or leavening agents in breads or pastries.

Processed Foods that Commonly Contain Wheat, Barley or Rye:

  • Beer
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Candy
  • Cold cuts, hot dogs, salami, sausage
  • Communion wafers
  • French fries
  • Gravy
  • Imitation fish
  • Licorice
  • Malt (malt syrup, malt extract, malted milk and malt vinegar)
  • Matzo
  • Medicines
  • Modified food starch
  • Rice mixes
  • Sauces
  • Seasoned snack foods (tortilla chips, potato chips)
  • Seitan
  • Self-basting turkey
  • Soups
  • Soy sauce

As a courtesy or for marketing purposes some companies already label foods free of gluten. However, the FDA, has defined “gluten-free” food labeling so that starting August in order to have “gluten-free” appear on a products label it must meet the definition of gluten-free set in place by the FDA. This will help protect customers following strict gluten-free diets.

What foods are GF?

Gluten Free Grains:

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Montina aka Indian Rice Grass
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Sorgum aka Milo
  • Teff
  • Job’s Tears aka Chinese Pearl Barley
  • Oats* – Many oats are grown and processed near wheat, which leads to cross contamination. Look for gluten-free on the label.

 

Other Naturally Gluten-Free Foods:

  • Fresh Fruits
  • Fresh Vegetables
  • Beans & Lentils
  • Peanuts & Tree nuts
  • Seeds like flax & chia
  • Dairy
  • Meats
  • Eggs
  • Fish & Shellfish

These days there are tons of products available in gluten-free forms. Just get in the habit of checking the labels to ensure foods really are GF.

Cross contamination happens when a food that is free of gluten comes into contact with a food that does have gluten or the residue of another food. All surfaces must be cleaned between food preparation and items should be stored and prepared separately. You may want to consider having a separate toaster, prep area, sponges and utensils for gluten-free items.

 

I know there are people who require a GF diet, those who just want to try a GF diet and see how they feel, and those who don’t ever want to hear anybody talk about gluten again. It can be overwhelming hearing about all of these different elimination diets. I see little harm in a GF lifestyle. It is a similar choice to removing meat or dairy based on lifestyle choices.  Just be sure to stick to a healthy balanced diet and consume adequate calories. Remember that wheat products are great sources of fiber and B-vitamins. Many breads and cereals are fortified with iron and folate, so make sure you can make up for these losses in your diet! I’d also consider it noteworthy that unless you have a medical reason to eliminate gluten there is no evidence that gluten is harmful. In fact, there are plenty of healthy, nutrient-dense foods that do contain gluten!

 

Resources:

Website for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: www.eatright.org

These infographics are pretty cute: http://www.glutenfree.com/#filters/

FDA Website: http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/allergens/ucm362510.htm

 

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