Everyone’s doing it. Even my dad is now “50% gluten free.” So…should you do it too? Let’s break it down.
FIRST, a pop quiz: What is gluten? (Hey, it’s a valid question!)
Gluten is a family of proteins found is wheat, barley, rye and spelt. It makes dough sticky and elastic, and allows bread to rise. Funnily enough, the word “glu-ten” derives from its “glue”-like properties.
There are some people who absolutely cannot handle gluten in any form: they have Celiac disease. While this is increasingly more common (we’ll get back to this), it’s still not the norm. For the rest of us, it’s more of a grey area.
If you’re already on the gluten free train or thinking of jumping on board, ask yourself, WHY?
Are you trying to lose weight?
Replacing gluten with other carbs might not be enough to move the needle. Many packaged foods labelled as “Gluten Free” substitute with ingredients like processed corn and potato starches, which quite frankly are no better for you. However, if it keeps your hand out of the bread basket, it could be doing you some good!
Do you want to get to the bottom of a digestive issue?
Many of us have a certain level of gluten intolerance, meaning it’s difficult to digest and can make you bloated, fatigued, cause skin issues, say mean things to your Mom…the list goes on. This is pretty common, and the degree to which people are effected by gluten varies from person to person. If you want to find out if this is an issue for you, try an elimination diet like The RASA Challenge.
Are you looking to cut out processed and GMO foods?
Unfortunately, wheat is one of the most genetically modified foods on the planet. We are consuming so many wheat products that food suppliers are racing to make them quicker and cheaper. This means that not only is the wheat genetically modified, but it’s not cooked properly. So you are essentially eating raw genetically modified wheat and your body can’t digest it. These genetically modified strands are also contributing to increased gluten intolerances and the rise of Celiac disease.
That said, not all gluten is created equal! There are some solid artisan breads, pastas and other products that do it right, so if you can’t live without a Dutch crunch roll, do your research. Also, other gluten-containing grains are not as widely processed, so you may want to consider going wheat free, but not gluten free.
You’re not sure why, but it just seems better?
Well, kudos to you for reading this. Hope you now have a reason one way or another.
The best way to ditch the g-word is to eat products that are naturally gluten free instead of packaged foods marketed as such. Processed food is still processed food. Don't let the absence of gluten trick you. I laugh every time I see a bag of popcorn, pint of ice cream or bottle of vodka labelled as “Gluten Free”. It’s ridiculous. Educate yourself and don’t fall into the trap!
What do I do? As a general rule of thumb, I try my very best not to eat any refined grains (sandwich bread, white rice, Cheerio’s, cous cous, etc..), but I don’t make a fuss about a few breadcrumbs, sushi rice or a bite of birthday cake (on my birthday). Girl’s gotta live, no?