A Guide to Gluten

Gluten is a much talked about subject of late, it's almost fashionable.  People are ditching it left, right and centre but not always for the best reasons, such as to lose weight (there are far more effective ways of doing that!)  Whatever the reason you may choose to cut gluten, though, is personal to you.  If you are considering it, learn from my mistakes for a less bumpy road...

WHAT IS GLUTEN
Gluten is a mixture of two proteins found in wheat, spelt, barley and rye.  It provides elasticity and binds when mixed with water.

WHERE IT HIDES
Gluten is found in more products that you would first guess, mostly in packaged and processed foods.  It’s always wise to read the label on what you’re buying anyway, especially if you like to know what you’re putting in your body.  On most packaged foods, gluten will nearly always be highlighted as an allergen.   When I first started experimenting with cutting gluten from my diet (a couple of years ago now), I had no idea that rye and barley contained gluten (although in smaller quantities than wheat), so continued to eat them… it’s no wonder that I didn’t notice much of a difference to my health.  If you are planning to remove it from your diet, spend some time reading the labels of foods that you usually eat and highlight any that contain gluten - make a note not to include those in your shopping basket next time!

Although oats and buckwheat are naturally gluten free, look out for packages that specifically mention gluten free.  Oats and buckwheat are often grown next to wheat and therefor can be subject to cross contamination.

GLUTEN ALTERNIATIVES
I stay away from pre packaged, specialist ‘gluten free’ products.  Not only do they taste like cardboard a lot of the time, but they often contain a whole host of thickeners, stabilisers and preservatives.  Also, they are largely made from corn, which I also avoid… but more on that another time.

I like to make my own baked goods, breads, crackers, etc. from scratch (see recipes here).  That way, I know exactly what’s in them and I’ll often incorporate a vegetable to give an extra nutritional punch.  Take a look at what’s in my pantry for a list of gluten free flours…

WHY I CHOOSE TO AVOID IT
I had experimented with removing gluten from my diet many times before, but hadn’t quite got a hold on the specifics… I advise you to not waste your time and effort as I did and swot up before you take the plunge... you've made a good start!

I cut out gluten, properly and for good, at the same time as dairy, sugar and nightshades.  It was never confirmed to me by a medical professional that I was intolerant but after reading about all the ways in which gluten sensitivity can affect your health (the internet is full of articles), I decided to give it a go anyway.  The fact that my skin dramatically improved once I stopped eating it was proof enough for me.  It could be said that I’ll never know whether it was dairy, gluten or nightshades that I was sensitive to, as I cut them all at the same time, but I really don’t miss it enough to try re-introducing it into my diet to find out!  I have found so many other ways of cooking and baking without it, and there are so many alternatives out there, I really don’t see a need for it… 


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