Gluten Free or Gluten Fad?
For reasons that are not entirely clear, growing numbers of people appear to be sensitive to, or intolerant of, these proteins. People with this gluten intolerance believe that the protein causes any number of problems, which manifest as allergy-like symptoms and various intestinal complaints.
Every few decades, certain foods come under fire for one reason or another. Gluten is currently having its moment in the spotlight. Many people have embraced the gluten-free craze, eliminating wheat, barley and rye--and products made with these grains--from the diet. Gluten and gliadin are protein complexes found primarily in wheat.
Doctors have long recognized a potentially serious, relatively rare hereditary condition called celiac disease. People with this disorder cannot eat wheat or wheat products without terrible effects that stem from a sort of autoimmune disease, in which the lining of the small intestines becomes damaged due to attacks by the body’s own immune system. These people must avoid all exposure to gluten and gliadin in order to remain healthy.
But it’s a bit of a mystery why so many people should suddenly be intolerant of gluten. Nevertheless, if you believe gluten may be causing problems for you, there’s no harm in eliminating this protein from your diet. Since it’s present in grains, avoiding gluten usually means cutting way back on carbohydrates. And that alone could be beneficial, as carbohydrates can be a rich source of calories in the diet. If nothing else, going gluten free could help boost weight loss by helping to control blood sugar levels.
Going gluten free involves some sacrifices. No more bread. No more pasta. No pizza. Of course, gluten-free flour substitutes are available, but I’ll leave it to you to decide if these alternatives are worthwhile. Bread gets its unique texture from the very proteins you’re trying to avoid, so reproducing its flavor and texture without them is problematic. A sort of gluten-free bread can be crafted from things like coconut and almond flours, but the flavor and texture may leave something to be desired.
Gluten free pastas, such as those made from quinoa and/or corn, are another story. Again, pasta lovers may find them lacking, but I think they’re much closer to the real thing than any bread substitute I’ve tried. Look for gluten-free pastas in the dry pasta aisle at your grocer’s. Going gluten free takes some effort. You have to read product labels carefully; wheat protein is added to a surprising array of prepared foods. Look for things like “wheat flour” and “modified food starch” on labels. Even canned soups may harbor wheat proteins that have been added for texture.
Going gluten free can’t really hurt, and it just might help if you’re really one of the many people who have developed gluten intolerance.