“Gluten Free”, you see it and hear it everywhere! If you are not really sure what this means, you are not alone! People all over are questioning if there is actually something to this phenomenon and if it is really a diet they should adopt? Before you decide to adopt a “Gluten Free Diet”, you should learn more about what this actually means.
What is Gluten anyways? Gluten is the major protein found in some grains. It is present in barley, rye and triticale (cross of wheat and rye) and all forms of wheat (bulgur, durum, semolina, spelt, farro and more). Don’t think that if you avoid those foods, you are avoiding all gluten. It can be hidden in unexpected places, as you will see in the list below.
Gluten is different from protein in other grains and in meat in that it is difficult for humans to digest completely. It is true that it can make some people very sick, but not everyone.
Should you completely avoid it? If you are 1% of the population that has celiac’s disease, yes, you should avoid it by all means. Those with celiac’s are so sensitive to gluten that even the smallest amount can make them sick. They lack the ability to digest gluten all together and therefore it damages the lining of their small intestines causing a variety of problems. This is known as gluten intolerance. For those of us who do not have the disease, it is a personal choice but not a life or death situation.
How do you know if you should avoid gluten for personal reasons? Over the past several decades, our gluten intake has increased because it is used in just about everything. Gluten today is highly refined and not the same as it was for our ancestors. The abundance of our intake of gluten has increased tremendously and people are experiencing something called “gluten sensitivity”. This is not the same as gluten intolerance, it is simply a sensitivity when foods containing gluten are digested. In some, it can trigger symptoms such as stomach pains, bloat, heartburn, joint pains, headache, skin rashes, fatigue, insomnia and brain fog, and several others. If you notice that you experience some of these symptoms when you eat products containing gluten, avoiding it may be something you should consider but if you don’t there is no need to avoid it all together.
Even if you are not sensitive to gluten, is living gluten-free the answer for weight loss? The new diet craze is to give up gluten and lose weight but this is not necessarily true! Actually, some people who adopt a gluten free diet actually gain weight because all they look for is “gluten free” and therefore find themselves consuming gluten-free packaged products that are often just as high in saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Most of these gluten free products are contain high-glycemic refined ingredients that increase blood sugar and can trigger cravings. Just because a product states “gluten free” does not mean it is good for you or is low calorie! On the other hand, if you stick with whole foods that are gluten free such as lean proteins, good fats (such as oils, nuts, avocados, etc) tons of veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes and grains that don’t contain gluten, then yes, adopting a whole food gluten free diet may be the answer to your weight loss goals.
Should you be scared of gluten? No, especially if you are not gluten intolerant or sensitive. You should be aware and take note of how you feel after you consume gluten but it is nothing to fear! Everyone has their own level of gluten tolerance and just like anything, you have to find what works for you! You may find that removing gluten
Gives you a burst of energy or decreases that lower abdominal bloat you haven’t been able to get rid of. If that is the case, you may want to consider a gluten free lifestyle. If you remove gluten and notice no difference, maybe gluten isn’t your worst enemy!
If you eat whole foods, does that guarantee you are eating gluten free? If you prepare your own meals, you can trust that something is gluten free but in the world we live in where eating out is common, whole foods doesn’t necessarily mean something is gluten free. Gluten can be hidden in the most bizarre places. If you decide to adopt a gluten free lifestyle or become more aware of your gluten free options, you should be aware of these common foods that may contain gluten!
- Scrambled Eggs: Some restaurants add pancake batter to their scrambled eggs to make them fluffier.
- Fish/Seafood: Sometimes fish and seafood is dusted with flour to keep it from sticking to a cooking surface.
- Vegetables: They could be steamed in the same water that is used to prepare/reheat pasta, which contains gluten!
-Soups & Sauces: The soup base, or roux, is often made from a flour base.
-Potato chips and tortilla chips: These are often contaminated with gluten when they are prepared in a fryer that is used to fry other breaded and battered foods.
- French fries: Can be coated with a flour mixture, and just like chips, they some often contaminated with gluten when they are fried in a fryer that is used to fry other breaded and battered foods.
- Crab: Real crab is gluten-free but imitation crab often is not!
- Burgers/Meatballs/Meatloaf: Breadcrumbs are often added to burgers, meatballs, and meatloaf. Unless the breadcrumbs come from gluten free bread, they contain gluten!
- Mashed potatoes: Flour is sometimes added to mashed potatoes as a thickening agent.
-Meat substitutes: meat substitutes are often made from wheat.