It may seem like a gluten-free diet is just the “fad” of the year, but the truth is that as our unhealthy population gets sicker and sicker, the more aware we are becoming of the reasons why we are so sick. Dr. William Davis, author of The Wheat Belly realized that today’s refined, crossbred, hybridized, unnatural wheat has a huge negative impact on our health. Having had personal health success from adopting a gluten-free diet, I can vouch that there is indeed something to be said about eating this way. So, I thought it would be an appropriate time to talk about what eating wheat-free (a.k.a gluten-free) really means.
First of all, what the heck is gluten anyways?
Gluten is a protein compound that basically acts as glue to help bread and other baked goods stay together and gives them their elasticity. Gluten is comprised of two proteins: gliadin and glutenin.
What food products contain gluten?
Gluten is primarily found in wheat, rye, triticale (a hybrid of wheat), barley and oats. However, gluten can also be hidden in other foods, such as:
- Processed meats
- Salad dressing and other condiments (ketchup, mustard, soy sauce etc.)
- OXO cubes
- Potato chips
- and more!
What does eating gluten-free mean?
Eating gluten-free means you avoid all products with gluten in them. Reading food labels quickly becomes part of your grocery shopping routine. You don’t realize just how many food products contain gluten! Eating gluten-free can be challenging at first, but once you get the hang of it, it just becomes a normal part of your lifestyle.
What kinds of things can I substitute in place of my favorite gluten-filled products?
Thankfully for us gluten-free eaters, there are an increasing number of gluten-free products available to us now. There are gluten-free cereals, soy sauces, salad dressings, tofu, breads, broth cubes, soups, pasta, granola bars and so much more! Even Betty Crocker has come out with a gluten-free cake mix!
You can also choose to avoid products with gluten completely. Why? Keep reading!
Where can I find gluten-free products?
You can find gluten-free products at most grocery stores nowadays. Metro and Loblaws have several aisles devoted to organic and gluten-free products. Many cities also now have natural food stores/health food stores/organic food stores/whatever you want to call them stores, with TONS of natural, organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and allergen-free foods. I highly recommend trying to find one in your area. They are fabulous!
Are “gluten-free” products really 100% gluten-free?
Gluten-free products are indeed missing the gluten protein that makes some of us sick. However, there is concern that gluten-free products may still have a negative effect on our weight, even though they are gluten-free. In The Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis notes that “many gluten-free foods are made by replacing wheat flour with starches, like cornstarch. These starches are among the few foods that increase blood sugar even MORE than wheat products! As such, gluten-free foods made with starches still trigger the glucose-insulin response that causes you to gain weight” – Yikes!! As much as I love bread products, I try to avoid their gluten-free versions for this reason.
What is the difference between someone who is gluten-free and someone who is a celiac?
Celiac disease is a serious medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by gluten. This results in the inability of the body to absorb nutrients like protein, fat, carbs, vitamins and minerals, all of which are important for good health. As Dr. Davis said in The Wheat Belly, “It’s truly incredible that a disease so debilitating can be triggered by something as small and seemingly innocent as a crouton.” My heart goes out to people who are celiacs. I can’t begin to imagine how hard it must be for a celiac, knowing that something as small as a bread crumb can make you so sick!
Presently, the only known cure for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet for life.
For more information about celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, visit the Canadian Celiac Association website.
Should people who don’t have celiac disease eat gluten-free?
This idea is still up for debate. If you believe what The Wheat Belly says, then yes, ideally everyone should eat gluten-free. On the other hand it can be argued that if you don’t HAVE to eat gluten-free for health reasons, why create that hassle for yourself? Ultimately, the decision is yours. Do some research, ask questions and make the decision you feel is best for your body! For me, that’s eating gluten-free, but that doesn’t mean it will be the same for you! Our bodies are unique and each react differently to everything life has to offer, including food!