What is Gluten?

What is Gluten?

It's one of the biggest fads in the health and nutritional worlds today: Going gluten-free. So many things now are advertising that they don't use gluten in their products that it rivals the popularity of the old “fat-free” and “sugar-free” labels. But here's something interesting:  Most people aren't even sure what gluten is, or what it can be found in!

So, long before you decide to cut out this particular group, ask yourself: What is gluten?

What is Gluten?

gluten grain kernels

Simply put, gluten is the substance, normally found in cereal grains, most particularly wheat, which gives dough made with the grain its traditional elastic texture.

It's a mixture of two common proteins found in the grains itself. These proteins,  known as “storage proteins”, are called prolamins and glutelins. They are also found in barley, rye, and oats. These proteins will also be found in all hybrids between the grains.

What is Gluten Found In?

bread loaf food loaves

As stated above, gluten is found in common grains, such as wheat, barley, rye, and oats. This means that gluten will be found in anything that these grains are used in.

This means that standard breads, cereals, biscuits, batters, cakes, cookies, and other foods which use grains are found in will also contain gluten. The only time this isn't true is if you're using a special flour, which doesn't contain gluten.

Should You Avoid Gluten?

girl wondering young thinking

This is the big question. But, in all honesty, the answer itself is very simple:  In almost every instance, no.

To someone without certain fairly rare medical conditions, avoiding gluten neither hurts nor helps you medicinally or nutritionally. Avoiding gluten won't help you lose weight; in fact, gluten-free flours can sometimes have the opposite effect. It also won't keep you any healthier than you were before starting this gluten-free diet.

People Who Shouldn't Eat Gluten

medicine syringe pills medication

Not to say that just anyone can eat gluten. For some people, going gluten-free is an absolute must.

  1. The most prevalent group who can't have gluten in their diets are those who suffer from celiac disease. Those who suffer from this can experience health problems soon after ingesting anything containing gluten.
  2. There are also those who are allergic to gluten. Eating, or sometimes even just touching, a product with gluten in it can trigger an allergic reaction.

Should You Try a Gluten-Free Diet?

Probably not.

bread gluten wheat loaf toast food

Now that you've seen what gluten is, what it doesn't do, and who shouldn't eat it, you've likely realized that it is harmless and, except in very certain cases, absolutely inert. Gluten-free foods are great for those with celiac disease or a gluten allergy but, beyond that, it's just another fad diet.

As you've been able to see, the question “What is Gluten?” is actually a fairly easy one to answer.

The fact that it is just two different proteins naturally found in cereal grains make it seem far less of a danger than diets proclaiming gluten Public Enemy Number One. Hopefully, you've also seen that, unless you have a rare medical condition, going gluten-free won't help you.

So take a deep breath, relax...and dig in.

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