Gluten is the new big bad wolf in the nutrition world. And there is a reason… Now before I continue I know what you’re thinking – “She’s gonna tell gluten is so so bad and I can’t have my morning croissant anymore! No way Jose! I will not read this!…”. But hang in there, I never tell you to not eat this and just eat that cause I am not into judging and criticizing, I am just here to share the good stuff with ya honey! That means information about this topic and by the end of this post you’ll find great book and link tips plus great recipes to help you ditch the gluten (if you choose so), in a yummy kind of way.
So okay, let’s start from scratch. What is gluten and why would it be that bad for me?
I found a great site about gluten that manages to break down the whole gluten myth to understandable pieces:
“In the simplest terms, gluten is a protein composite, meaning it is a substance made up of several different proteins. It is found in wheat and related grains in the triticeae family of grassy grains or cereal grains. These grains include barley, bulgur wheat, durum, einkorn, farro, graham, kamut, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale and wheat.
…The specific proteins we are most interested in are the prolamin gliadin and the prolamin-like glutelin glutenin. They make up about 80 percent of the protein in wheat. These are the proteins which give gluten its unique structure and function… and these are the proteins responsible for triggering celiac disease and a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
…The cross-linking of gliadin molecules and glutenin molecules creates the primary properties we identify with gluten.
…Because of the cross-linking of gliadins and glutenins, which occurs when you mix a gluten-containing grain with water, gluten provides the chewiness you’ve come to know in baked goods. Baked goods with a higher density of this unique substance feature greater chewiness (as is the case with bagels and pizza crust). Without gluten, common baked goods would be more sticky and less chewy.
Gluten also traps carbon dioxide produced during dough fermentation before baking, helping dough rise before it is baked. Additionally, it traps gases during the baking process, helping baked goods rise even more while baked. This capacity to trap gas also helps provide the light, flaky quality in some baked goods.
When dough is baked, gluten coagulates to help that bread, muffin or cake retain its shape. This is why early attempts at gluten-free bread and gluten-free baking in general tend to result in baked goods that crumble more than we desire.
Heavier, chewier baked products feature higher concentrations of gluten while lighter pastry products feature a lower concentration.
The food industry uses gluten, and wheat gluten in particular, in many ways because it is so easy and inexpensive to isolate gluten from starches. As it is a concentrated protein source and an absorbent substance, it is often used as a food additive, a protein supplement or even as a food by itself. Meat substitutes, also known as imitation meat or wheat meat, are often composed of concentrated gluten. For example, seitan is mostly just concentrated wheat gluten.
Perhaps most insidiously, its capacity to bind and provide thickness makes it common in flavorings and sauces. This is why gluten exists in many more food products than just the obvious baked products and why it is more pervasive in the western diet than many people realize.”
Okay then to the topic of the cons of gluten and why so many people avoid it these days. Like you read from the text above, gluten is the thing that makes your bakings rise and gives them the chewy texture. Well this is what gluten also causes inside the body; it is kinda like glue moving through the digestive system. These properties are the one that also kinda mess up the absorption of nutrients; when you are eating a gluten rich meal, it prevents the absorption of nutrients of all foods in that meal.
About the other challenges gluten presents:
“The primary problem encountered is that glute proteins are extremely difficult to digest. These undigested proteins trigger the immune system to attack the inner lining of the small intestine.
There are many symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity. Among these are:
- Gastrointestinal problems which may include bloating, pain, gas, constipation, and diarreah
- Aching Joints
- Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle, and miscarriage
- Cramps, tingling and numbness
The symptoms which may be associated with gluten are clearly representative of the common complaints of a huge portion of the population. It is difficult for many people to eliminate gluten totally from their diet. In some cases it’s a matter of finding those foods that will replace those things that are a staple in many diets. In other cases, it’s a matter of the expense involved in living a gluten free life.”
There is another key factor to gluten as well that wasn’t yet mentioned: gluten spikes your insulin levels, and this means you blood sugar is all crazy which causes stress hormones (like cortisol) fight the oh-my-too-high blood sugar levels. When cortisol goes around in your body, it means you’ll switch into a fat storing mode. (that’s what your body does when it thinks you are in danger cause of the high stress levels) Yikes.
So if you are often feeling sluggish, out of tune and just plain old lame – try living without gluten for a while, you could be amazed by the results. Although I have add that it can take up to 2-6 months for the effects of gluten-free life to really start showing, in your body and in your mood. So a bit of patience needed. But I think if you really have a gluten allergy (gluten allergy is not celiac disease, check out the differences between these two from here) or you just can’t tolerate gluten very well, it’s really worth the try… And your belly will thank you too – bye bye Michelin-man vibes on the waist area!
Have a fantastic day… and you can even have that croissant of yours!
Psssst… Some great book tips:
William Davis / Wheat Belly
Elisabeth Hasselbeck / The G-Free Diet
Roben Ryberg / Gluten-Free in Five Minutes
Whole Living / Gluten-Free recipes
Gluten Freely / Recipes
Coconut Banana Bread (one of my personal favorites)