One of the biggest buzzwords floating around right now is gluten-free. I know a lot of people who preach that gluten-free is the best and healthiest way to eat food. When I ask these people what gluten actually is, or why we should exclude it from their diet, they usually give me the simple answer of “It’s wheat. It’s bad for you.” It seems that most gluten-free preachers don’t have a clue about what gluten actually is, and how it impacts your body. Gluten is not to be feared, and here’s why:
What is gluten anyways?
Gluten is a protein found mainly in wheat. A similar protein can also be found in rye, barley, and tritcale. Gluten is formed by gliadins and glutenins. It acts as the glue that holds foods together until it is digested. Once digested, gliadins and glutenins break down into peptides, further made up of amino acids.
ed.: A fellow Aggie just taught me that gluten is formed during the “breadmaking” process – when water is added to wheat flour. Kneading the dough encourages more bonds to form. Yay for learning!
How does it affect my health?
Some people suffer from celiac disease. This means that gluten proteins, when they break down into peptide chains, irritate the small intestine. This can lead to digestion problems, and is linked to Type 1 diabetes.
If you’re not celiac, there is no connection between gluten and bad health. White flour and processed foods, however, are not great for you. People who go on a gluten-free diet usually cut these foods out of their diet as well, which is why they think that gluten is bad for them. Gluten itself, however, is not proven to be bad for you if you don’t have digestion problems!
But people say it helps them lose weight and feel better!
Consumers who start a gluten-free diet (without being diagnosed with celiac disease) claim that this change has cause them to lose weight and be more energetic. There is no concrete evidence that proves these changes are caused by the removal of gluten! Most likely, these sudden changes are due to an overall change in diet and lifestyle – removing processed foods and foods containing white flour, as well as substituting these foods with vegetables and fruits, contributes to a more healthy lifestyle. Consuming whole grains and more vegetables is proven to lead to higher energy levels and the potential for weight loss!
Where can I learn more?
CBC’s The Fifth Estate just produced a great episode about The War On Wheat. Check it out to hear from both sides of the story.
The Canadian Diabetes Association has some more information about celiac disease.
The Canadian Grain Commission has some great information about wheat and its varieties, as well as other cereal grains.
Personally, I can’t get enough gluten. Bread, pasta, muffins – wheat products are my favorite. So, to gluten – may you also taste delicious!
Emma — The Suburban Aggie