what is gluten-free?

Gluten-free living has become somewhat of a ‘fad’ recently, but what is it and why are so many people choosing to go ‘gluten-free’? It’s important to know exactly what it is and why before deciding if this as an option for you. Below are a list of common questions and answers I came up with to help people understand what ‘gluten-free’ is. Happy learning everyone 🙂

What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and some other grains. It is responsible for making dough stretchy!

What products have gluten?
Contain gluten: wheat, barley, rye, kamut, spelt, triticale, semolina, durum wheat, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, malt, beer, oats** (**oats are naturally gluten-free but are easily and commonly cross-contaminated with gluten in processing facilities). Sometimes gluten is in other stuff like soy sauces, yeast, fillers (like in some supplements), or ‘natural flavourings’.
Does not contain gluten: rice, quinoa, amaranth, seeds, beans, potato, almond flour, buckwheat, tapioca, flaxseed, millet, coconut flour.

Is gluten bad?
Nope! It’s just a naturally occurring protein. However, it needs to be avoided by people with a gluten-allergy (i.e. celiac disease) or gluten-intolerance. In people with celiac disease, gluten damages the cells of their small intestine. You can only know if you have a *true* gluten allergy .by getting a blood test or biopsy done. People who are intolerant to gluten get abdominal discomfort (gas, bloating, stomach pain) after eating foods with gluten, so they usually stay away from it as well. You can find out if you are intolerant to gluten by getting food sensitivity tests done, or just by taking it out of your diet for a few weeks and seeing if your symptoms go away.

What is wheat-free vs. gluten-free?
Gluten-free is all the things mentioned above, i.e. not having the protein gluten. Wheat-free means not having things that contain wheat. Gluten-free will ALWAYS be wheat free, but wheat-free doesn’t always mean gluten-free. People who go wheat-free sometimes still have forms of grains like rye, spelt or kamut which are less processed.

Will going ‘gluten free’ make me healthier or lose weight?
Not necessarily….If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, eliminating gluten will indeed make you healthier because the gluten is not causing harm or discomfort to your little intestinal cells anymore.

happy cells = happy you!
happy cells = happy you!

Weight loss will come naturally when we avoid or lessen the foods that cause damage or inflammation in our bodies. This could be wheat, sugar, gluten, dairy, or other things!

If you do not have a gluten allergy/intolerance, be mindful of the following:
a) just because something says ‘gluten-free’ doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthier. Now that you know what gluten is, you can discern between those dazzling products being marketed to you. For example – Chocolate Vanilla Cream Sandwiches by Glutino. They are gluten-free, yet still made with icing sugar and vegetable shortening (palm and canola oil) like regular packaged cookies. You decide!
b) there are many people that think they are gluten-intolerant, but their intestines are actually reacting more to the sugar  in foods commonly associated with gluten. For example, someone who gets gas/bloating etc. after a heavy pasta and bread meal may feel they have an intolerance to gluten. But it may be worth it to take a step back and wonder if your body is perhaps also/instead reacting to the load of sugar you just gave it. There is an alternate food lifestyle called FODMAPS that may be worth looking into if you are curious if this describes you.

happy gluten-free or gluten-full eating! 🙂

Emily

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