Gluten-free means an absence of the protein found in wheat, barley and rye (as well as many other grains). There are a limited number of people who need a gluten-free diet. The first is those who have celiac disease. The second is those who have gluten intolerance. Their symptoms may be similar to celiac disease but may not have the intestinal damage which occurs in the people who are celiac. The third group is people with a wheat allergy whose symptoms are completely different.
Gluten where it shouldn’t be
Processed foods often contain gluten, even when you would not expect it. Flour is often used to bulk up a food, or to stabilize or thicken. Surprisingly some ice-creams have gluten, which is why people with celiac disease are avid label readers.
Another area to watch is cross-contamination or contact with gluten products. Oats could be gluten-free but if produced in the same place as a wheat product, can easily pick up a dusting. Where this might not be enough to affect someone with an allergy or sensitivity, it is problematic for the celiac as gluten damages the small intestine.
Mass produced spices can have the same issues, and spice mixes often contain flour – so read the label or buy the raw spice and make your own blend.
Cook from raw to be sure
One of the easiest ways of ensuring gluten free foods is to buy the raw ingredients and to produce the food yourself. That way you can be certain of the contents. Of course, that is not always possible.
Larger markets get attention
The gluten-free market is estimated to be more than $4 billion annually and so gluten-free food is getting more attention than ever, and with 1% of the U.S. population celiac and another 18 million people with sensitivity, restaurants are more capable of dealing with gluten-free options.
Eating healthy and gluten-free
A gluten-free diet is as healthy as a normal one, and both are equally as calorific. A gluten-free cookie may even have more calories than the gluten version as sugars and fats are added to improve the taste.
Gluten-free vegetarians and vegans take the challenge up a level. But the key is ensuring enough protein. Quinoa, a complete protein, is a must in the diet, and nuts help. A healthy diet takes a little more thinking about.