Facts About Gluten

What Is It?

Gluten is a type of protein that can be found in wheat, barley, and rye as well as other types of carbohydrates an breads.  However, not all foods containing grains contain gluten.  Types of grains that do not contain gluten are corn, buckwheat, quinoa, oats, soybeans, wild rice, and sunflower seeds.  

What Does It Do?

Gluten gives bread part of its structure and helps it to have that softness and elasticity, that gives it that chewy texture it has when it is eaten.  When the gluten is removed for gluten free products, it often cause bread that is flat and heavy for the previous reason.  Gluten also gives other important qualities to bread.  An example of this is it traps the gases that are released during fermentation within the dough.  This causes the bread to be able to able to rise before it is baked. Furthermore, gluten becomes harder after it is cooked and, in combination with starch, works to keep bread in its correct shape.  

What Does Gluten Free Mean?

When talking about gluten free products, it must be remembered that it is possible to remove most of the gluten from flour by producing starch.  However, it is impossible to remove it all.  The guidelines for being able to call an item 'gluten free' by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say that only a certain amount of gluten has to be removed.  

Gluten and Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is something that affects between 0% and 1% of the population in the United States.  When someone has celiac disease and consumes gluten, there can be severe auto-immune responses.  Therefore, people with this disease must eat 100% gluten-free products.  Although celiac disease only affects a very small portion of the population, there is a larger group of people who are gluten intolerant or have a gluten allergy.  Because both groups of people have problems digesting gluten, it is best not to assume you have celiac disease if you have problems with this issue.  The best thing to do is to let a medical professional run tests and create a diagnosis. 

Gluten In Other Foods

Gluten is often used as a stabilising agent even in some products you would not expect like ketchup or ice cream.  It is important that people with auto-immune issues understand this because not knowing what foods contain gluten can be dangerous to some people.  In the United States all foods containing gluten do not have to be labeled due to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has classified gluten as GRAS, or Generally Recognized As Safe.  

It must be noted that, despite a wide spread misconception, gluten by itself is not terribly bad for your health. It is very dependent on the situation from person to person. Some people have difficulty digesting gluten and therefore must avoid it.  To understand your own stance with gluten, it is important that you have all the facts to weigh and balance.

Check out this video for a further understanding of what gluten is.