Just like the fashion and toy industries, the food market goes through fads that bombard customers with the newest and healthiest ways to stay fit. This season, there seems to be a growing trend of gluten-free foods, endorsed by celebrities, magazines and grocery stores alike. So, let’s take a closer look on what gluten actually is and what nutrition and health experts really advise!
So, what is gluten?
Gluten is a protein in foods that are made of processed wheat and other grains, such as rye, oats and barley. It helps to provide the chewy texture and shape to breads, give flexibility to the dough, and helps the wheat to rise.
But why is it a problem?
Though gluten is satisfying to our taste buds, it can cause serious problems for people who cannot properly digest the protein. People who have trouble digesting the protein have what is called Celiac Disease. This ailment is caused by an irregular reaction to gluten, which can harm the inside layer of that person’s small intestine. Damage to the inner lining of one’s small intestine can make it difficult for that person to absorb needed nutrients. Symptoms of the condition can include diarrhea, anemia, skin rashes, and abdominal pain, among others. But fear not, because only an estimated 1% of Americans have Celiac Disease.
The bottom line is that if you think you may have a gluten allergy, then get tested! However, gluten-free does not always mean healthier. Unless, you have a specific condition that limits your gluten intake, then by eating gluten-free you may be missing out on important vitamins and minerals that are found in foods that contain gluten! Whole grains, which contain gluten, offer B vitamins, iron, and fiber! Studies have also consistently shown that eating whole grains is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer.
Written by Mariela Villanueva