Gluten is a big buzz word these days. It is estimated that 3 million people, or 1 in 133 Americans, suffer from celiac disease, the genetic autoimmune disease which makes the body unable to tolerate gluten. Additionally, many people have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, or just feel better when they don’t consume gluten.
Gluten is the protein found in grains that makes them sticky – like glue – and can inflame and damage the intestinal tract, preventing the absorption of nutrients from foods. Gluten can also cause “leaky gut syndrome,” which allows particles of food to slip into the bloodstream from the gut, and sets up a cycle of food allergies and intestinal problems.
Individuals seeking to avoid gluten in foods have had to adjust their diet to consist of whole foods: foods in their natural state, like fruits and vegetables, plus good quality proteins and fats. While this is a great prescription for ALL of us, many people crave their breads and pasta.
Help is on the way! Food manufacturers have begun to make a multitude of gluten-free products. No longer just crackers, breads and pastas! You can now find everything from gourmet gluten-free cookies to frozen gluten-free pizza. Bakery shops, pizza joints and restaurant chains are joining the gluten-free craze.
Still, it’s important for consumers to understand that an item labeled gluten-free is not necessarily simply healthy. You must still read labels! Oftentimes, gluten-free foods contain more calories, and have more fat and sugar, and may be highly refined and processed foods. Gluten-free cereals and baking mixes are often made with potato starch, tapioca starch and white rice flour – ingredients which tend to be low in nutritional value and can disrupt digestion and cause weight gain if used for a long time.
Many grocery stores have entire gluten-free food sections. Stroll through one the next time you are shopping. You’ll be amazed at the varieties of breads, pastas, soups, condiments, and beverages and more available in a gluten-free version.
Keep Your Vitality!
Lipski, E. (2012). Digestive Wellness. New York: McGraw Hill.
Hartman Group (2011). Looking Ahead: Food Culture 2012.