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What is Gluten?

What is Gluten?
What is Gluten?

There are many people in America who buy gluten-free products without even knowing what gluten really means. You would think that these consumers are acting silly, but they are actually following the modern trend of going gluten-free. In other words, if you take gluten out of your diet, then your diet is deemed healthier. This is not exactly a faulty assumption as there is evidence to suggest that the absence of gluten can offer health benefits. However, this should not give people an excuse to remain ignorant about gluten and its effects on the human body. You would be genuinely surprised to know that there countless websites on the internet that give people an incomplete or inaccurate definition of the term gluten. What’s more shocking is that many of these websites serve as support forums for people affected with gluten sensitivity, gluten allergy or celiac disease.

A Simple and Accurate Definition of Gluten

The best way to define gluten would be to label it as a composite of four different kinds of proteins. It is okay for you to refer to gluten as a protein, but you should remember that it is not a single protein, but rather a combination of 4 different types of proteins. These 4 proteins are prolamins, glutelins, globulins and albumins. Experts have categorized these proteins as plant storage proteins.

Albumins and Globulins

Albumins and globulins can be found in a number of different grains. In fact, these proteins can be found in grains that can be consumed when you are on a gluten-free diet. For instance, corn and rice are gluten-free grains that contain albumins and globulins.

Prolamins and Glutelins

If albumins and globulins aren’t creating the problem, then surely prolamins and glutelins are the ones that are causing havoc in the digestive system of gluten intolerant individuals. These proteins are the real culprit when it comes to triggering the symptoms of gluten intolerance (which are far more complicated than simple digestive issues). Prolamins and glutelins exist in grassy grains or cereal grains. For example, wheat, barley, rye, spelt, triticale and kamut all contain high amounts of prolamins and glutelins. As a matter of fact, nearly 80% of the protein composite that constitutes gluten is made up by prolamins and glutelins in these grains.

There are two specific proteins in wheat. These are gliadin (the prolamin) and glutenin (the glutelin). When you are undergoing a blood test to diagnose celiac disease, the medical professional in charge of conducting the test is specifically looking for anti-gliadin antibodies in your bloodstream. The presence of these antibodies confirms your immune system’s reaction to gluten. Gliadin and glutenin can cross link to form stretchy, elastic strands that give gluten-containing foods their unique texture.

What Type of Foods Contain Gluten?

Now that you have a basic understanding of what gluten really is, it is time for you to learn the art of recognizing foods that contain gluten. This is an extremely important step in maintaining a gluten- free diet. If you are not able to identify the foods that contain gluten, then you are going to have an incredibly tough time avoiding them. If you are a person who is suffering from gluten sensitivity, gluten allergy or celiac disease, you’d feel a little scared to find out that gluten is existent in a surprising number of foods. Bread and cakes are not the only things that you need to avoid in order to stay free from the horrible effects of gluten intolerance. All kinds of baked goods that are prepared with gluten containing ingredients or that are exposed to gluten should be avoided. Wheat starches and gluten are often used in various processed foods as food additives. They are also used as product fillers and flavour enhances for a disturbing number of consumable products in the market.

Here are a few examples to help you look at the bigger picture. Liquid food items such as curry, BBQ sauce and soy sauce can be hidden sources of gluten. In fact, vitamins and supplements could contain gluten as this protein composite works really well as a binder or filler. Autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed protein are also a “no-go” since it is not uncommon for them to contain gluten.

What is Gluten-Free?

As a person who has never been gluten-free, you may think that it is impossible to avoid gluten because of how pervasive it is in our food industry. The good news for you is that there are plenty of gluten-free products in the market that are worthy replacements for common gluten containing foods. In addition to stocking up on these products, be sure to avoid processed or packaged foods that are generally contaminated by gluten. If you truly want to embrace a gluten-free lifestyle, then you need to sharpen your culinary skills as living off store bought gluten-free products will cost you heavily in the long run. The internet offers a myriad of gluten-free recipes. Browse through these recipes and get busy in the kitchen. Just so you know, gluten-free foods can be just as delicious as gluten containing foods.

About Drew Conklin

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