Gluten: what’s the big deal

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley (lesser known grains: farro, spelt, kamut, semolina and einkorn also contain gluten). It’s made up of two strands of protein called glutenin and gliadin.

When gluten containing grains are mixed with water these protein strands unwind and form gluten. This is what makes bread strong, elastic and “doughy”. Gluten can be difficult to digest, in part, because of its “stickiness” but for people who suffer from gluten sensitivity symptoms can include: headache, fatigue, abdominal  pain and bloating, joint pain, skin rash and tingling or numbness in legs.

In addition to bread and all the other products that contain wheat, barley and rye, many processed foods contain gluten including:

  • modified food starch
  • soy sauce
  • soups
  • ramen noodles
  • prepared rice mixes
  • candy
  • breadcrumbs

just to name a few.

Some great alternatives include:

  • millet, amaranth, quinoa grains
  • crackers made with flax, chia or hemp seeds
  • buckwheat flour
  • brown rice and rice flour
  • bulgur
  • corn and polenta
  • nut and chickpea flours
  • oats and oat flours
  • rice, coconut and oat flours
  • tamari and coconut aminos (instead of soy sauce)

Gluten is found in the seeds not the grass, so don’t be afraid of wheatgrass!

Today, there are many food companies that specialize in gluten free items but always read the labels. Gluten-free doesn’t always equal “healthy”.