Nowadays, almost every restaurant, coffee shop and supermarket offer some form of ‘gluten-free’ option. But let’s be honest, how many of us actually know what gluten is? If you’re not sure, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to our Guide to Gluten.
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in cereal grains such as wheat, rye and barley. It acts as a glue to maintain a food’s shape and is the reason behind the elasticity in a dough. Gluten can be found in many food products, both obviously and unexpectedly. The well-known avoidable culprits such as bread, pasta and cereals make a G-Free diet sound easy. But, gluten can disguise itself in foods less obvious, including food colouring and some confectionary. It is always important to check the label, just in case.
The main reason gluten-free options are available are for those who have adverse reactions after consuming gluten. Coeliac Disease is a medical condition where the body has an abnormal immune response to the breaking down of gluten, resulting in symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and constipation. This continued reaction from the immune system can cause damage to the delicate intestinal walls, which can affect the intestines ability to absorb nutrients effectively. Therefore, it is important to see your GP if you think you may have Coeliac Disease. Some people suffer from ‘gluten intolerance’ or ‘gluten sensitivity’ and may experience the same symptoms as Coeliac Disease. However, there is no known scientific biological explanation for these symptoms when they are not caused by Coeliac Disease. Listen to your body and if you deem necessary, cut out the gluten.
If you decide it is best to ditch the gluten and go G-Free, don’t make the mistake of going grain-free. Grains are an important part of a healthy balanced diet and eliminating them could lead to a lack in your iron and fibre intake. Grains without the gluten are widely available, including the likes of rice and super trendy quinoa. Some packaged gluten-free products are high in fat, trans fat and sugar. So, as always, less processed foods and more cooking from scratch is the way forward.
To gluten or not to gluten? That is the question.