It seems like everyone is talking about gluten, especially when it comes to their diet. While it is true that gluten has gotten a lot of interest over the past decade, some people find this term confusing and use the word “gluten” interchangeably with “carbohydrates” or “bread” or “pasta.”
We are here to set the record straight! While gluten might be found in many foods that contain lots of carbohydrates, gluten itself is actually made up of PROTEIN!. You read that correctly! Gluten refers to two proteins found naturally in wheat, barley, and rye (gluten is also found in triticale, a cross between wheat and rye). Gluten gives wheat its shape and foods containing gluten their texture and stretchiness (think of the last time you rolled out a pizza dough). It also helps baked goods to rise by trapping air bubbles.
Interestingly, many people have cut gluten out of their diet completely without even understanding what it is! In fact, a recent study suggests that the number of those patients diagnosed with celiac disease has not changed much in recent years, but those following a gluten free diet has tripled!
Given the fact that many foods are derived from wheat and grains, gluten is also found in MANY processed foods.
While most yummy, starchy foods contain gluten, there are some that do not. Some great examples of carbohydrate-filled foods without gluten are rice, corn and oats (this assumes there has been no cross-contamination of the oats).
Sometimes gluten can be a little sneakier. If a food or product manufacturer uses wheat byproducts during production, the product may contain gluten. Here is a list of some surprising products and foods that might contain gluten. Always verify by checking the label or with the manufacturer directly.
Processed lunch meats
(uncommon nowadays with improved labeling)
Beauty products such as lipstick
Over-the-counter nutritional supplements
Imitation crab – California rolls
Licorice – Warn your grandpa
Playdough: Mean for playing, not eating
Street (illicit) drugs (another reason not to do ‘em)
An autoimmune (when the body attacks itself) reaction to gluten can cause celiac disease. In celiac disease, the body’s army of immune cells reacts abnormally to gluten and attacks the main cells lining the small intestine. This process can lead to a decreased ability to absorb important vitamins and minerals—what doctors call malabsorption.
An autoimmune reaction to gluten causes celiac disease.
Celiac disease is rare, affecting less than 1% of the population, but that number is misleading since most cases of celiac disease are undiagnosed. The treatment for celiac disease is strict avoidance of foods that contain gluten; this stops the body’s attack on those important cells and heals the damage done.
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