Gluten-free food options can be found everywhere these days. Grocery stores have aisles dedicated to gluten-free products, restaurants have gluten-free menu items, listed catering companies (including Serendipity) offer a variety of gluten-free dishes, and everyone from celebrities to the neighbors are becoming gluten-free. So what is gluten and what exactly does it mean to be gluten-free?
What is Gluten?
The word gluten comes from the Latin word for glue. Gluten is the protein “glue” for stretchy pizza dough, chewy bagels, and soft breads. It keeps pasta from falling apart, and it also holds together cookies, cakes, and most other pastries. Basically, gluten is in most foods that we like! And sometimes even hidden in condiments, soups, and sauces as an added thickener. It is widely thought that we are seeing more people with gluten intolerance due to the fact that it is in most processed foods and our bodies simply were not designed to handle such a large amount of the stuff.
Who Should be Gluten Free?
For those with celiac disease, gluten is truly something steer clear from. Their bodies detect gluten as an invader and it will cause an inflammatory response, which then leads to severe gastrointestinal distress and damages the small intestine. However, it is thought that a large population of us has what experts call non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This is sensitivity to gluten that causes the gastrointestinal distress without causing damage to the small intestine. If you are curious about your gluten sensitivity, dietary experts recommend trying to eat gluten free for two weeks to see if you notice big differences such as higher energy level, a healthy weight loss, clearer skin, fewer stomach aches, and fewer headaches or migraines. If so, going gluten free could be the right diet for you.
Eating Gluten Free
Luckily, there are many gluten-free products to take place of our beloved pasta, breads, and cookies. But the best items to eat when going gluten-free are high quality proteins, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Rice (not in a packaged seasoning box), most dairy, quinoa, and soy products are also gluten-free. It is always a good idea to check the labels on packaged foods such as salad dressings and condiments, and to stay away from items that contain wheat, barley or rye (see full list here). Being gluten-free is relatively easy these days with the growing number of products, restaurants, and catering companies that are going with demand, leading experts to believe that this a dietary trend that is here to stay.