What is gluten?

Knowing what is in your food is important if you decide to eat gluten-free.

Going gluten-free seems to be a dietary habit that is becoming increasingly popular. For some people, the decision to go gluten-free is made out of necessity because they have celiac disease. For others, however, the reasons range from self-diagnosed intolerances to just seeing eating gluten-free as a way to live a healthier lifestyle.

As a result of this trend, many people are jumping to the conclusion that “bread is bad” because it contains gluten, without really understanding why. The first step towards understanding is to identify what gluten is. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is the general name for the proteins found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, and einkorn), rye and barley. The gluten protein plays a key role in helping foods to maintain their shape, acting as a glue to hold products together. Gluten can be found in a variety of products including, bread, crackers, pasta and much more.

Gluten is found in a variety of grain-based products. When determining if a food product is gluten-free, it is important to reference the ingredient list by reading it thoroughly to ensure the product meets the requirements of being gluten-free. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has taken a lead on the labeling aspect of gluten-free products. According to the FDA, it may only be labeled gluten-free if the product has been specifically processed to remove gluten. The FDA published the law in 2013, to assure that individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance are able to consume safe foods.

Grocery shopping can be overwhelming for someone who is following a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, there are many healthy and delicious foods that are naturally gluten-free. Naturally gluten-free food groups include fruit, vegetables, dairy and protein (fish, seafood, nuts, legumes, beans, meat, and poultry). However, it is still important to be familiar with what gluten is and be able to understand the product ingredient list so that you can understand what a particular product contains.

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