Millions of Americans have opted for a gluten-free lifestyle and have given up their flour-filled foods, including pizza! So what really is this mystery substance that is powerful enough to get many of us to give up a few of our favorite foods? What the hell is gluten?
What Is It?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. Gluten acts as the glue that holds foods together to maintain their shape.
Why Do People Avoid It?
The main and most medically relevant reason for going gluten-free is Gluten Celiac disease. Celiac disease affects about 1% of people and is an autoimmune disease. This means that when gluten is ingested, it causes an immune reaction which forces the immune system to attack both the gluten and intestinal wall itself, treating the gluten as a foreign invader like a bacteria.
The other cause is known as "non-Celiac gluten sensitivity" which may produce similar symptoms to Celiac disease. However, it is not well understood by experts. It's best to consult your physician if you think you may be sensitive to gluten.
Where Can You Find It?
Gluten is in more than just your traditionally carb loaded foods. In fact, many people who adopt a gluten-free lifestyle end up eating or drinking gluten without knowing it! Gluten can be found in the following foods and drinks:
- Salad Dressings
- Some Vodkas
- Sausage and Meatballs
- Sushi and Soy Sauce
- French Fries
- Baked Beans
- Veggie Burgers
Does Going Gluten-Free Make You Healthier?
Yes and no. Often times people attribute good health, reduced fatigue, and less bloating to being off of gluten, but this may also be attributed to the fact that going gluten-free reduces the amount of excess calories we take in from flour-based foods. There are also some downsides to going gluten-free. Going gluten-free can leave your diet low in fiber, iron, folate, calcium, and more. That's because gluten-free products are often made with refined, unenriched grains that contain few nutrients. Just because a food is gluten-free does not mean it is healthier.
With Everything, There's A Balance
So, while going gluten-free may help you lose weight and feel better, it can leave you hurting for some essential nutrients. Remember to balance your diet with additional fiber from sources like spinach! Spinach is high in fiber, iron, folate and calcium!