Many people have to cut out gluten from their diets due to allergies and sensitivities. But more and more people are cutting it out by choice. But why and is it really good for you?
Let's start with the basics. Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. It's in almost all of your favourite and most delicious foods. It is essentially the ingredient that makes food great. It is gluten that makes pizza dough stretchy, it's gluten that gives bread its spongy texture and it's gluten that thickens up sauces and soups.
This is all bad news for people with celiac disease, a digestive disorder that causes great gastrointestinal distress and nutritional deficiencies. On a lesser scale is gluten sensitivity. This means that a nibble on some bread, a slice of pizza or a slurp of soup can bloat you up, fill you with gas, give you stomach cramps and even bring on diarrhoea. Not pleasant but not fatal either.
So it's not surprising that some people want to avoid this protein. And with gluten being one of the top 8 allergens, the food industry has caught on and there are more and more gluten free products out there so that sufferers can enjoy pizza night again.
But aside from medical reasons, why are people cutting out gluten when it causes them no ill effects? Well there are lots of arguments. One being that humans don’t fully digest wheat. The undigested portions of wheat begin to ferment, producing gas. Gas that has to come out. Gross. Refined wheat is also completely stripped of any natural nutrients, meaning that they have to be added back in. And most of us don’t like people playing with our food.
Some people have found that cutting out gluten has helped with migraines, weight loss and energy levels. But this could be that without gluten-filled products, you are mainly left with a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, diary and lean meats. Without biscuits, pasta, pizza and ready meals, energy levels will shoot up and your waist size will shrink down.
But be careful, cutting out gluten doesn't mean an instant dropping of a dress size. In fact in many cases it can actually increase your weight. Gluten free doesn't mean fat free. It can actually mean more fat. Gluten is what holds ingredients together. Without this food glue, producers have to use more fat and sugar to keep their food in one piece. A gluten free version of your favourite food might actually have more calories in.
If you think you might have celiac disease then go to your doctor and she can test you for it. But you must keep on munching on the protein before you go otherwise they can't diagnose you. Cutting out gluten completely should be talked over with a heath professional but if you have no allergies and are keen to reduce your gluten intake then try some of these delicious gluten free products. Cutting back on the wheat, barley and rye and upping your intake of naturally gluten free grains like quinoa, millet and teff won't hurt. And will add some healthy variety to your diet too. Bonus.