For a pasta loading, carb loving, bread craving foodie like me, the idea of going gluten free was about as likely as growing pointed ears and hitching a ride on the Starship Enterprise. However, with friends and family increasingly dealing with health issues, dietary restrictions, and food allergies, I’ve become increasingly interested in the health and wellness benefits of reducing, and even eliminating wheat from our diet.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat and other grains such as oats, barley, spelt, and rye. It’s gluten that gives dough its elasticity. Bakers love it, but our digestive tracts generally don’t. The Wikipedia definition of a gluten-free diet is one that excludes foods containing gluten, irrespective of their source. Wheat is a major culprit, but it’s not the only gluten agent.
While I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, I’ve learned a few things about gluten that have opened my eyes and taste buds. Here’s a few good reasons why going gluten-free might be worth a try, even as a test to see how it makes you feel. According to Gluten Free Cooking For Dummies, “Wheat is one of the top 8 allergens. Many people have gluten sensitivity (a.k.a. Celiac disease) and don’t even know it. Wheat is also an inflammatory agent, meaning it rapidly converts to sugar, causing a rise in the body’s insulin level, causing inflammation at the cellular level. The everyday impact of gluten consumption is a result of our bodies not fully digesting wheat, so portions begin to ferment and produce gas. Let’s just leave it at that!
Refined wheat today has little nutritional value and there are many other ways to get your fiber. Experts suggest focusing on whole grains, rather than whole wheat. As a rule, things like buckwheat, cornmeal, quinoa, and rice are gluten-free. However, anything can be contaminated with gluten during processing. For example, most oatmeal brands on the market today are not pure — they contain oats that have been cross-contaminated with a tiny bit of wheat, barley and/or rye. So, if you want to be on the super-safe side, buy ingredients that are certified gluten-free, especially if you are allergic or following specific dietary restrictions.
It’s not known how many people have gluten sensitivity, but estimates are that it may be as high as 50 – 70 percent of the population. Even if you aren’t allergic to wheat, you can reap the digestive benefits of reducing or eliminating wheat in your diet. Try some of our gluten-free recipes and enjoy winter warming food that’s delicious and good for your body!