Why is gluten such a hot topic in health and nutrition? Allow us to explain:
Gluten is the general term for the proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape - almost acting like a glue holding the food together.
Wheat is commonly found in breads, baked goods, pastas and cereals - among many other items. Barley is found in malt, beer and brewer's yeast. Rye is most often found in rye bread, beer and cereals.
So what's up with gluten? Why does it affect people and what can we do about it?
Gluten is an allergen that often manifests as an intolerance in three types of conditions:
1. Celiac Disease: In people with celiac disease, gluten triggers an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine. This often interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food and can lead to other conditions.
2. Wheat Allergy: People with wheat allergies have an abnormal immune response to wheat and wheat products. This can range from nausea to severe anaphylaxis.
3. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: This condition is diagnosed when a person does not have either of the above conditions yet still experiences intestinal symptoms and other symptoms like headache, fatigue and joint pain when consuming gluten.
Why might this be? Well, this research is still relatively new but some theories suggests that human digestive systems have not evolved to digest the kind or amount of grain proteins that are common in modern diets.
Many people adopt a gluten-free meal plan and for good reason: if you feel better when you don't do (or eat!) something, you usually stick to it. By avoiding gluten, most people cut back on their consumption of processed foods. It's not a secret that these highly processed foods are typically also high in calories, sugar and unhealthy fats - often correlated with better weight management.
Gluten tends to have an inflammatory response on our bodies. By avoiding gluten, many people say that they lose weight, feel less fatigued and have less joint pain. When eliminating gluten, people often replace it with healthier options such as vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and proteins.
Here are some other steps you can take if you are trying to reduce, or eliminate, your gluten consumption - other than ordering our gluten-free meals, of course!
Avoid gluten-free substitutes: just because a food product is "gluten-free", does not mean it is healthy! Be sure to always check labels - if you can't pronounce the ingredient or don't know what it is... avoid it.
Focus on what you can eat rather than what you can't eat: there are still a lot of "fun" starchy foods to enjoy like corn tortillas, popcorn, rice and mashed potatoes.
If you can handle gluten, pick and choose your spots: skip the old bread roll but enjoy your Mom's famous apple pie!
Experiment with different types of baking flours: our favourites are coconut, tapioca and rice. If you can eat nuts, try almond flour. Better yet, create a flour blend or mix to make your favourite muffins.