Gluten-Free? Not for me!

Perhaps the longest lasting “trend” in recent years is the widely popular gluten-free craze.  For many people who have gluten intolerance or celiac disease this is no craze – it’s a necessity. Some people have a very real allergy or intolerance to this protein which is found in several grains. They may suffer mild to severe digestive (and other) problems if they don’t adhere to a very strict gluten-free diet.

Wheat is the primary gluten-containing grain, but there is also naturally occurring gluten found in rye and barley.  Many oat products also contain gluten, but gluten is not naturally occurring in oats.  It is found in oats because of cross contamination during processing.  That said, you can purchase oats that are gluten-free (not cross-contaminated) and it will very clearly state this on the label. (If it doesn’t say gluten free, assume it’s not.)

But what is gluten? If you ask a large number of people who swear by a gluten-free diet, you will find they don’t know what gluten is.  But they may claim to feel better avoiding it, and they may even say that “going gluten-free” helped them lose weight.  How can this be?

Gluten (also known as glutenin) and gliadin are two proteins that are found in wheat. Glutenin provides the structure of many baked goods such as bread, bagels and pizza crust.  Some baked good recipes even called for the addition of extra pure gluten to their wheat flour to deliver an extra bang of gluten for extra chewy texture. For those who don’t have an allergy or intolerance, this can be a very good thing. Who doesn’t love the texture of a perfectly chewy bagel, a crispy pizza crust, or a warm slice of homemade bread?

Many people can’t enjoy any of these things and are forced to eat gluten-free to maintain their health.  Because of the recent increase in “GF” preference, there are now a plethora of GF products on the market.  But just because it’s GF does not mean it’s necessarily healthier.

Gluten-free products may be void of wheat, barley, rye and gluten, but some contain highly refined flours (e.g. NOT whole grain), and/or lots of sugar and not so healthy fats to make the taste and texture more tolerable.  On top of that, many manufacturers are charging a premium price for using ingredients that are not necessarily more expensive…..buyer beware!  Be sure to check the ingredient list and nutrition facts label.

I don’t deny that many of us might feel better or even lose weight going GF – but that’s often because too many of us are simply eating too many carbs, including too much wheat (often refined).

If you’re thinking of going GF because you believe you have a physical problem with it, please see your health professional to be tested before embarking on a GF lifestyle plan.  Otherwise you may never know if going G-free really made a difference in your symptoms (if any).

I am not a heavy carb eater, but I do enjoy my whole grains, including wheat (rye AND barley).  I’m always trying new grains and new preparations to share with my clients and students not just because they’re healthy, but also because they’re delicious and have incredible textures too.

Stay tuned for more whole grain recipes! and check out my new book

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© Cheryl Forberg 2016