Gluten Free- Necessary or Trendy?
Gluten is a protein composite found in several types of grains, including wheat, spelt, rye and barley. Gluten consists of two proteins… gliadin and glutenin. It is the GLIADIN part that people react negatively to.
When flour is mixed with water, gluten forms a sticky cross-linked network of proteins, giving elastic properties to dough and allowing bread to rise when baked.
Actually, the name gluten is derived from these glue-like properties.
Gluten free appears to about 30% of Americans! Wow, that is a large number and you can definitely see that in the aisles of your supermarket. Huge parts of shelves, mostly in the “healhty foods” aisle are being taken over by gluten free products.
But is it just a trend or is gluten threatening our health? Let’s take a closer look.
Celiac disease and intolerance
Only about 1 in 133 people- about 0.75 percent- have celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. The immune reaction can cause degeneration of the intestinal wall, which leads to nutrient deficiencies, various digestive issues, anemia, fatigue, failure to thrive as well as an increased risk of many serious diseases.
Only about 0.4 percent of people have a real medically diagnosed wheat allergy, according to a 2006 study. In those people, a true allergic response to wheat (which contains gluten) can include skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms.
An even smaller percentage of people may have what is called a non- celiac gluten sensitivity, which may also produce similar symptoms but is not very well understood by experts.
People without symptoms may consider avoiding gluten for health reasons, but there is little evidence proving that going gluten free means good health. On the contrary, “a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” says Peter H.R. Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.
If you think that you might be have celiac disease, get a proper diagnosis first before cutting out gluten from your diet. Symptoms can be weight loss, iron deficiency, anemia and/or a family history of celiac disease.
Just because it’s a grain doesn’t mean it has gluten.
A balanced diet should include lots of different varieties of food, including a broad spectrum of grains.
Gluten free grains are amaranth, millet, buckwheat and quinoa.
Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten also shows up in many whole grain foods related to wheat, including bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye).
Gluten itself doesn’t offer special nutritional benefits. But the many whole grains that contain gluten do. They’re rich in an array of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron, as well as fiber. Studies show that whole grain foods, as part of a healthy diet, may help lower risk ofheart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that half of all carbohydrates in the diet come from whole grain products.
To be sure, a few whole grains don’t contain gluten, including amaranth, millet, and quinoa. But they are far less common than gluten-containing grains. Meeting the dietary guidelines goal is very tough if you have to eliminate wheat, barley, rye, kamut and other gluten-containing whole grains.
There’s little point in taking that risk unless you genuinely have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. “Eating a healthy gluten-free diet means paying constant attention to what you eat. This isn’t something that anyone should do casually,” said Green.
There’s also little point in eliminating just some gluten. For people who are sensitive, even trace amounts can cause damage to the small intestines. “So an almost gluten-free diet isn’t going to help if you have a problem.”
The bottom line: If you think you may have a problem with gluten, get tested.
Part of our balanced whole food plant-based diet is to use all kinds of grains, including gluten free grains. We love to add puffed amaranth to our raw balls ( for instance to our raw apricot balls http://plantbasedhappy.com/?page_id=445) or to our breakfast cereal. Creamy quinoa flakes (http://plantbasedhappy.com/?page_id=182) as a delicious breakfast or a savory quinoa version with roasted veggies and pesto for lunch …yumm!
Yesterday, I whipped up a few extremely delicious gluten free muffins. We loved their moist consistency and their different flavor.
I always recommend using frozen berries because they tend to keep their shape more and don’t get soggy. I keep chopped strawberries in the freezer and used them in these muffins together with blueberries.
Click here to see the recipe http://plantbasedhappy.com/?page_id=5133
Enjoy the gluten free delicacies!