Learn About Gluten-Free
Gluten-Free Diet: Everything You Need to Know
While gluten-free diet has been around since the 1940s, it has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years. Following other fad diets, though, some have been wary about jumping onto the bandwagon.
So, is gluten-free just one of those fads? Or is it something you should seriously consider for a healthier lifestyle?
Let’s deep dive into what it really means to be gluten-free and why you should consider making this a part of your healthy lifestyle.
What is gluten?
First, let’s answer the all important question: What is gluten?
Gluten is the general term for proteins found in many grains. It was named as such because it serves as the “glue” that helps food maintain its shape. It’s thanks to gluten that flour gets a sticky consistency when mixed with water and it allows bread to rise during baking
Glutenin and gliadin are the two main proteins in gluten. The latter, gliadin, is what gives gluten its “glue-like” properties but is also, unfortunately, the reason for its adverse effects.
“The Big 3” sources of gluten are wheat, rye, and barley. These three are ingredients in many of our daily foods like breads, pasta, cereals, soups, and beer (just to name a few). The newer grain triticale (a cross between wheat and rye) is a close fourth source of gluten and is also present in breads and pastas.
So, if the main source of gluten is grains, then does that mean a gluten-free diet is a grain-free diet? Not necessarily. You can still enjoy the goodness of grain but remain gluten-free. More on this later.
Let’s first explore gluten’s adverse effects and why the gluten-free diet was discovered in the first place.
Is Gluten Bad for You?
The gluten-free diet is not just a fad. There is truth in the idea that gluten is harmful to us.
It was during World War II when doctors discovered that children who have celiac disease — a chronic digestive disorder — were actually getting stronger despite the lack of access to fruits, vegetables, and especially wheat. This is how they were able to link gluten to celiac symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, and nausea.
At this time, though, the only conclusion according to Celiac Center director of research Dr. Daniel Leffler is that this type of protein only affects “relatively small … populations of people with celiac disease.
Fast forward to the 1980s and all that changed.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center assistant professor and pediatric GI section head Dr. Anca Safta introduced what was called “non-celiac gluten sensitivity”. This was discovered in people who did not have celiac disease but were manifesting the same symptoms. They also reflected health improvements once gluten-containing foods were taken out of their diet.
These days, while gluten is still considered harmful to those with celiac disease or with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, science shows that most people can usually tolerate gluten without showing any symptoms.
But the word “tolerate” does not seem all too reassuring. Aside from being gluten intolerant without any prior diagnosis, people may also react negatively to gluten because of irritable bowel syndrome and wheat allergy.
In the end, it does not matter if you haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease or have yet to manifest gluten sensitivity. There are several health-conscious reasons to stay away from gluten.
3 Reasons to Go Gluten-Free
Here are 3 of the main reasons you should consider a gluten-free diet.
1. Wheat is a common allergen.
Wheat is a top allergen and going gluten-free means you get to avoid it, along with other gluten-containing grains. This not only benefits you but also the whole family, especially children who have yet to develop allergies and also asthma.
2. Gluten has adverse effects on thyroid disease.
Prevention is always better than a cure. While staying away from gluten reduces antibodies associated with autoimmune thyroid disease, the adverse is also true. Eating food with gluten also increases your risk of contracting thyroid problems.
3. Gluten products are not as “healthful” as they make you think.
Those “whole wheat” breads that you see in groceries may not be as healthful as they are advertised to be. Unfortunately, those marketed as “whole wheat” bread do not necessarily list all its contents. And the likelihood is high that it’s just wheat added to enriched flour. That means you’re basically eating something that can give you a sugar high with no real nutritional value.
The good news is that if you enjoy wheat bread for its taste, there’s a healthier alternative that tastes like the real thing. The key is looking for a brand that is able to strike a balance between gluten-free and bakery-fresh. It also helps to only shop for brands that have gluten-free certifications visible on the label.
And as mentioned above, embarking on a gluten-free diet does not necessarily mean completely saying goodbye to the goodness of grain. Little Northern Bakehouse’s gluten-free baked products have a delicious variety of grains that add a wide range of textures and flavor. Our baked goodies are not only certified gluten-free, they’re also BioChecked non-glyphosate verified and non-GMO Project verified.
There are many ways to truly be gluten-free — and there are fortunately ways to make this diet as enjoyable as it is healthy. Its popularity has given way to a lot of dish inspirations and recipes on the Internet, so you can give life to your gluten-free meals.