Understanding the gluten-free diet
Learning about the gluten in our diets.
Q. Just what is gluten-free food?
A. You may see products at the market labeled "gluten-free"these days or maybe a friend's doctor asked him to cut gluten from the diet. The concept of gluten and gluten-free foods can get really confusing. Here are some basic tips to help you make sense of what it all means.
Don't: Think gluten is bad (unless your doctor tells you it's a no-no)
Do: Get to know gluten
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It also can be found in products that are processed in the same facility as these foods. Many processed foods and certain brands of tomato paste and chicken broth also have it. Soy sauce contains gluten. While most gluten won't hurt you, some people suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune condition, and can't digest gluten properly. Continuing to eat gluten can cause intestinal damage and other health problems for those suffering from the disease.
Don't: Confuse "wheat-free"and "gluten-free"
Do: Check the ingredients
If you're trying to avoid gluten, beware of cross-contamination. Many cereals and grain products that aren't made with wheat may be exposed during processing. Wheat-free foods can also contain gluten from ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein and some forms of "natural flavoring."
Don't: Give up bread
Do: Discover gluten-free options
Waffles, breads and other baked goods are available for a gluten-free diet. The trick is finding brands that you like. Pamela's and Food For Life products have gotten rave reviews. You can also experiment in your kitchen with gluten-free bread and muffin recipes. These recipes often contain xanthan gum (a thickening agent), potato and rice flours and gluten-free baking mixes.
Don't: Eat large portions of gluten-free foods
Do: Pay attention to serving sizes
Many gluten-free baked goods and snack foods are higher in calories than the gluten-filled versions, so pay attention to labels.
Courtesy of Dana Angelo White on foodnetwork.com
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