Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What is Gluten?

Thank you to the student who asked us this...

Q: What is gluten and why do people eat gluten free?

A: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This protein is responsible for the wonderful texture of freshly baked bread. These three grains seem simple enough to keep track of when choosing foods...but wheat, barley, and rye are used in foods for many different applications. These three grains can act as additives in products like salad dressings, marinades, snack foods, and more.

Celiac disease is a permanent intolerance to gluten and individuals who suffer from this must avoid all gluten in their diet. Other people who suffer from gluten intolerance or sensitivity should avoid gluten containing foods as well. A gluten free diet has not been proven to be effective for other diseases/conditions; however, this is an area that will continue to be researched.

Fortunately, there are many different gluten free grains and foods that people can eat when following a diet sans gluten. Rice, corn, potatoes, buckwheat, and quinoa are some of the examples. Oats do not contain gluten, but they are frequently grown and processed near gluten containing grains and can be contaminated. Fruits, vegetables, whole meats/poultry/fish, milk and most cheese, eggs, beans/legumes, and tofu are all naturally gluten free. An individual following a gluten free diet can certainly be healthy at the same time. Click here to find out more about gluten free diets.

Read below to find out some more FAQs about gluten...

  • If I eat gluten free, will I lose weight?
    • A gluten free diet is not a weight loss diet. Based on research thus far, a gluten free diet is only effective for the management of gluten intolerance and Celiac disease. Many snack foods and desserts contain gluten. They also contain higher calories compared to many fresh whole foods, thus, if someone eliminates a concentrated source of calories, they may lose weight.
  • If I quit eating gluten, will the quality of my workouts improve?
    • No. Gluten has not been proven to have any detriment to athletic performance. Your body runs on carbohydrates and including them daily is an important part of any athlete's diet. Keep in mind that some gluten containing foods are a concentrated source of calories and fat (cookies, crackers, cake, baked goods). These foods are not high in calories because of the gluten but because they are made with other high calorie ingredients (butter, oil, sugar).
  • How do I eat gluten free when it is so expensive?
    • You do not have to buy specialty products to eat gluten free. Remember that fruits, vegetables, whole meat/poultry/fish, eggs, and dairy are all naturally gluten free. Beans and legumes are also gluten free and very inexpensive. Grains like brown rice, quinoa, and corn all fit into a budget. Yes, specialty products (pastas, cereals, cookies, crackers) are expensive, but you do not have to buy them to get create a balanced gluten free diet.
  • Is eating gluten free healthier than a regular diet?
    • No, it is not. You can follow a healthy diet while still eating gluten containing foods. If you do need to follow a gluten free diet, you need to make sure and include whole grains from foods such as brown rice, buckwheat, corn, quinoa to ensure you are receiving enough fiber.

Gluten Free and Celiac Disease Resources

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