Nowadays, many people are following a gluten-free diet. Some don’t eat gluten for medical reasons. People with coeliac disease for instance. Others just don’t eat it because they were told by health magazines or friends that gluten is bad for you. But what is gluten, anyway? And is it really bad for you?
So, What is Gluten?
“Gluten’s a vague term. It’s something that’s used to categorise things that are bad. You know, calories, that’s a gluten. Fat, that’s a gluten.” So says Seth Rogen as Seth Rogen in the (I think hilarious) movie This is the End. And Seth Rogen is not the only one that is a little confused when it comes to gluten. Recently Jimmy Kimmel asked people at a popular exercise spot in LA what gluten is. Most had no idea, although they tried their hardest to come up with a good explanation.
Simply put, gluten is a protein composite found in wheat and other related grains. It forms when proteins glutenin and gliadin cross-link. Gluten gives dough its elasticity and helps it rise. Bread flours are usually higher in gluten than pastry flours. Also, the more you knead dough, the higher in gluten it is, since kneading promotes the formation of gluten.
@Jimmy Kimmel Live
Is Gluten Bad for You?
Well, this question is a bit trickier to answer. If you suffer from coeliac disease, yes, eating gluten should be avoided at all times. When people with coeliac disease eat gluten, they experience bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, tiredness and headaches. By eating gluten, their immune system reacts badly and this can lead to damages to the lining of the small intestine. If you think you have coeliac disease, you should talk to your doctor. A blood test and a gut biopsy can be done to find out if you have this disease.
If you think you have gluten sensitivity (which is different from coeliac’s), you can test this by eliminating gluten from your diet for a few weeks. Then you can gradually reintroduce it to your diet to see how your body responds. You may not have to eliminate gluten from your diet completely, but you may have to cut back.
There are also a lot of people who don’t eat gluten because they want to lose weight. And some people do lose weight when cutting back on gluten. After all, a lot of fatty foods like pizzas and pastries contain gluten. Cut back on pizza, and you will surely lose weight. However, many gluten-free substitutes contain more sugar and more fat than their gluten-stuffed counterparts. Why? Because it makes them tastier! We may not be able to see gluten or know exactly what gluten is, but I can assure you that most will taste the difference between bread with gluten and bread without it…
Some people say that even if you do not have coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, it is still a bad idea to eat gluten. They argue that today’s genetically modified wheat is over-processed and that’s why there are more people being diagnosed with coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity than ever. However, there is simply no conclusive research to support this theory. And if there are more people recorded with coeliac disease each year, couldn’t that also be due to the fact that people are simply better informed about the disease and that there are better detection methods than let’s say 40 years ago?
Some studies have revealed that a completely gluten-free diet can cause a deficiency in iron, folate, thiamine, calcium, vitamin B12, and zinc. And unless you suffer from coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, it seems to me that it is a better idea to just follow a more balanced diet than a completely gluten-free diet which is very hard to stick to. But hey, that’s just me. I tried to go without gluten once due to stomach issues, but it is sooo hard. Especially if you live in a country that worships the sandwich.
So, do you follow a gluten-free diet? If so, why do you avoid gluten? Let us know & leave a comment!
Let your friends know what gluten is!