To gluten or not to gluten, that is the question! You’ve no doubt heard a lot about gluten and going gluten-free, but do you really know what gluten is and why so many people are cutting it out of their diet? We are going to try and make it simple for you with a little Q&A with our trusty I AM Co. Nutritionists to deconstruct gluten and get back to the basics. Let’s go!
What is gluten?
Gluten is the protein found in grains like wheat, rye and barley. Gluten helps food maintain their shape, acting like a glue to hold foods together.
What foods contain gluten?
Wheat, rye and barley are the three main grains that gluten is found in, however it can also be found in spelt, couscous, durum wheat and oats to a lesser extent.
Foods that commonly contain gluten are breads, pasta, cereals, packeted soups, baked goods, spreads, salad dressings and other sauces, malt and beer. Unless of course any of these foods have had the gluten extracted from them! Beware of hidden gluten in products such as soy sauce too.
Fruit and veggies are all naturally gluten-free and are the best way to gain all the essential nutrients in your diet. There are also plenty of delicious grains that do not contain gluten such as rice, amaranth, quinoa, millet and buckwheat. Not to mention the huge amount of gluten-free alternatives becoming available to us, almost everyday it seems!
The key to choosing the healthiest gluten-free products is to check the ingredients list on the packet and make sure there are no hidden nasties added to compensate for the lack of gluten. Remember to keep your eye out for those sugars that tend to be added unnecessarily to gluten-free foods for extra flavour!
What are some signs that I might be intolerant to gluten?
There’s a difference between those who are sensitive, intolerant or allergic to gluten. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity or intolerance can vary greatly and include lethargy, cramping and bloating, headaches, constipation, nausea and vomiting, nutrient deficiencies and weight loss. If symptoms like this are relentless and persist, you may be allergic to gluten but it is vital that you visit your healthcare practitioner or naturopath for testing.
Should I go gluten-free?
Absolutely everyone is different and as with all foods, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to gluten. While there is mounting evidence against consuming gluten for human digestive health, whether you are intolerant or not, this does not mean to say that everyone should cut gluten out entirely. You may benefit from cutting back on certain gluten-containing foods, for example pasta and bread, and substituting these for gluten-free wholefood alternatives. Let’s be honest, we all feel better when consuming less of these foods!
Our best advice when it comes to deciding on the gluten-free life or not is to TRIAL it! Spend four to eight weeks with little or no gluten in your diet and see how you feel. Do you have more energy or less? Is your digestive system settled or inflamed? Do you have cravings or not? Listen to your body and treat it accordingly.
The bottom line, as always, is to ensure that the foods you choose are nourishing and providing you with ample vitamins and minerals for your body and mind to thrive, rather than just eating for the sake of eating. Start slowly and perhaps even use a food diary to record how you feel after consuming certain foods and after making significant changes in your daily intake. This will give you insight into what foods make you feel your very best, which is what we ALL want and deserve.
Do you have any thoughts around this? Do you consume a GF diet? Let us know in the comments below xo