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What is Gluten-Free?

This summer I’ll be doing a series of blog posts based on questions I hear frequently about food and lifestyle. It does seem like there are a lot of big words that get tossed around, like “inflammation,” “probiotics,” “MCTs,” and lots more. My goal over the next few weeks is to dig into each of those things and explain them in a way that’s easy to understand.

 

I thought gluten-free would be a good place to start.

 

What is Gluten?

The Celiac Disease Foundation tells us gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. It’s the glue that holds things like bread, pasta, and cookies together (source).  If you find out you’re gluten intolerant, this is a pretty big pill to swallow.
 
 

 

What else has gluten in it?

It’s a little overwhelming how many foods have gluten in them. Here are *some* of the things you can expect to have gluten in them (not an exhaustive list by any means):

  • Breads
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Most packaged snacks and baked goods
  • Beer
  • Pasta

However, there are a few foods that you wouldn’t expect to contain wheat, rye, or barley that can be unexpected sources of gluten:

  • Soy sauce (and Chinese food)
  • Gravy (sometimes it’s thickened with flour)
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Certain chocolate bars
  • Certain wines
  • Tomato soup (this was the hardest one for me…I love tomato soup!!)

 

Do you really have to stop eating all of those things if you’re gluten-free?

It depends. For myself personally, I feel best when I am eating ZERO gluten. As in, no slip ups at all. Different people have different tolerances for it. If you are a Celiac, you will probably be better off cutting out all gluten, but people who are mildly intolerant may be able to handle a cookie here and there. (:

 

(I am not a doctor and cannot advise anyone else’s health but my own.)

 

Reasons for adopting a gluten free lifestyle

There are a few reasons someone might want to go gluten-free. It seems really trendy right now, but I would also argue that there are more legitimate celiacs and gluten-intolerant folks out there than there ever have been. Why would someone willingly cut gluten?

  • Celiac disease
  • Digestive issues
  • Other health issues (my reason is related to a thyroid issue that makes digesting gluten really difficult)
  • Cutting back on inflammation (my next post will be about this)
  • Trendy/seems like the “healthy” thing to do (while I don’t think everyone should cut gluten out of their diet, I’m sure people do get a great if unintended health benefit from cutting processed foods out when they cut out gluten…)

 

So what do I eat if I’m gluten free?

While I would advocate a simpler diet with fewer carbs and more healthy fats, plant-based foods, and a limited amount of grass-fed organic meats, I will say that there are a lot of options for the GF crowd. What a time to be alive! There are so many gluten-free pastas, snacks, and restaurants available that half the time I forget it’s even an issue. I’ll do a post in the future on my favorite GF alternatives. In the meantime, enjoy your Saturday! (:

 

 

 

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