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What Is Gluten? What Are Gluten Free And Gluten Containing Foods?

What Is Gluten? What Are Gluten Free And Gluten Containing Foods?

  • GoToChef
  • Feb 14, 2019

  • Feb 14, 2019

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What Is Gluten? What Are Gluten Free And Gluten Containing Foods?

In the recent past, Gluten-free food has been trending to quite some extent that you might be wondering if this is a fad or does it actually have some long term scientific merit to it. When you enter your local departmental store, you might have often seen food items with flashy bold stickers on it, declaring it to be “Gluten-free”. Is this a good thing? Is it something you should be happy about? Well, lets take it from the top and understand what exactly is Gluten?

Gluten is a collective name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale (which is a hybrid of wheat and rye).

Gluten helps food maintain its shape. Simply put, it acts as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in several varieties of food, like breads, pastas and cookies and even in those you would not expect! Because of its glue like structure, Gluten causes harm to those who have a sensitivity to it as it impedes their digestion and creates problems in their immune system.

WHY IS IT HARMFUL?

Gluten is made up of two proteins - Gliadin and Glutenin. The Gliadin is the part that people react negatively to. When flour is mixed with water, Gluten forms a sticky cross-linked network of proteins. It is this very network that gives elastic properties to the dough and allows the bread to rise when baked. The name “gluten” is in fact derived from these glue-like properties!

The problem arises when Gluten reaches the digestive tract and comes into contact with the immune system. The cells of the immune system sometimes mistakenly believe that Gluten is some sort of a foreign invader- like a bacteria. In certain people who are sensitive to Gluten, this can cause their immune system to rebel against Gluten and cause health problems.

In Celiac Disease- which is the most dangerous form of Gluten sensitivity- the immune system attacks the Gluten proteins, but it also attacks a very important enzyme in the cells of the digestive tract called Tissue Transglutaminase. Therefore, Gluten exposure in Celiac patients causes their immune system to rebel against Gluten, and its own body as well!
It is for this very reason that Celiac Disease is classified as an autoimmune disease.

HOW CAN YOU IDENTIFY GLUTEN IN YOUR FOOD?

Mostly all main courses are gluten-free in the Indian cuisine because the dishes are made with fresh ingredients, such as meat, rice and lentils instead of processed food. The exceptions are the sauces and gravies because they are often made with curry powder, which may be contaminated with Gluten. If you're eating out, the safest thing to do is ask if the particular dish you are ordering does or doesn’t contain Gluten.


Fresh vegetables do not contain any gluten. Mostly all traditional Indian vegetable dishes are gluten-free options.

Here is a comprehensive list of items which contain Gluten, taken from Shelly Case’s book “Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide”

Case's book lists these items:

  • Barley (flakes, flour, pearl)
  • Breading, bread stuffing
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Bulgur
  • Durum (type of wheat)
  • Farro/faro (also known as spelt or dinkel)
  • Graham flour
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Kamut (type of wheat)
  • Malt, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring
  • Malt vinegar
  • Malted milk
  • Matzo, matzo meal
  • Modified wheat starch
  • Oatmeal, oat bran, oat flour, whole oats (unless they are from pure and uncontaminated oats)
  • Rye flour and bread
  • Seitan
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Wheat bran
  • Wheat flour
  • Wheat germ
  • Wheat starch

OTHER GLUTEN BASED FOOD ITEMS

These are other items which also might contain Gluten. It’s advisable to always double check the label on these food products.

  • Beer, ale, lager
  • Breads
  • Broth, soup, soup bases
  • Cereals
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Some chocolates, some chocolate bars, Licorice
  • Flavored coffees and teas
  • Imitation bacon bits, imitation seafoods
  • Medications (check with your pharmacist)
  • Pastas
  • Processed foods
  • Salad dressings
  • Sausages, hot dogs, deli meats
  • Sauces, marinades, gravies
  • Seasonings
  • Soy sauce

But not everyone is sensitive to Gluten. The popular negative opinion about Gluten eclipses the wonderful health benefits of the same product. In fact, avoiding Gluten based diet in the absence of Celiac Disease will prove to be harmful.

LET’S EXPLORE THE BENEFITS OF GLUTEN

1. Risk of type 2 diabetes is lowered.

At the American Heart Association, few scientists presented data in March of 2017 from 1,99,794 subjects whose dietary history had been followed for the past 30 years. The report showed that those subjects who ate the most Gluten had the lowest risk of type 2 diabetes upon follow-up.

Interestingly, the group eating the highest amount of Gluten foods compared to the lowest group had a 13 percent lower risk of diabetes. The major sources of Gluten were pizza, muffins, pretzels, and bread among other American foods.

2. Nutritional benefits

Avoiding food that contain Gluten can lead to major deficiencies in essential nutrients, including fiber, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.

Whole grains, for example whole wheat bread, contain important nutrients. In addition, many products that contain Gluten, such as rice and breakfast cereals, are also fortified with vitamins which makes it extremely dangerous for your health if you avoid these food items.

3. Fibre intake is important

There are many Gluten-free products which are low in fiber. Avoiding whole grains can lead to a lack of fiber which is dangerous for your health. You can make up for it by consuming lentils, beans, and so on, but a diet like that will need careful planning. In addition, many processed Gluten-free products can be higher in calories, sugar and fat and lower in fiber than their Gluten equivalents. This can lead to severe weight gain.

Gaynor Bussell, a renowned dietitian and spokesperson for the United Kingdom's Association for Nutrition, told Medical News Today: "Gluten is only bad for health if you are a Celiac."

Celiac Disease is mostly prevalent in Western countries. It’s prevalence in South Asian countries has been detected as comparatively low. Yet, Celiac Disease has been found to be a phenomenon in North Indian cities, mostly Ludhiana. 1 out of 310 have been detected with this disease, according to a journal article published in J Gastroenterol Hepatol, 2006 by A Sood, V. Midha, N. Sood, G. Avasthi and A Sehgal.

Still confused about whether you should be buying gluten-free products or not? It is safe to say that most Indians (unless you have celiac disease) should opt for gluten-based products, rather than avoiding them!

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