What is Gluten?
If you have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, it is important that you understand what is gluten. To prevent unpleasant or painful symptoms and damage to your small intestine, you will need to eat gluten free foods for the rest of your life.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in certain grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. Oats may contain some gluten, as well, but many doctors believe the amount of gluten in oats is so small that it does not cause a problem in people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Gluten gives bread and other baked goods their shape and it gives them a dense, chewy texture. It retains gas in the baking process, making bread rise. Gluten promotes absorption, so bread soaks up moisture easily. Gluten free foods, on the other hand, may not have these characteristics. For instance, you can make bread from gluten free flours, but the texture of the bread may not be the same as bread made from wheat.
What Is Gluten Found In?
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley, so it is an ingredient in many foods, including breads, bagels, waffles, muffins, crackers, cereals, cookies, pastries, and cakes. Gluten is found in a number of other foods as well, including:
Gluten Free Foods
If you need to eliminate gluten from your diet, there is still plenty that you can eat. Gluten free foods include:
Finding Gluten Free Foods
As you can see, there are plenty of foods that don’t contain gluten. Read labels carefully before purchasing packaged foods. Understanding what is gluten will help you avoid it in foods. For instance, gluten is not the same thing as wheat. A product can be wheat free but still contain gluten. Make sure you understand what to look for when reading labels.
If you have questions about the ingredients in a food item, call the manufacturer. Most manufacturers are very sensitive to the needs of customers with food allergies and will be happy to answer any questions.
You should read the label every time you buy an item because manufacturers can change the ingredients in a product at any time with no notice. Just because an item was gluten free last month, that does not mean it will be gluten free today.
When dining in restaurants, ask questions about the ingredients in any dishes you aren’t sure about. If the server doesn’t know the answers, he or she can go back to the kitchen and check for you. Be aware that the server may not know what is gluten, so just asking if an item contains gluten or not may not get you the information you need. Ask about all the ingredients in a dish so you can make sure it is really gluten free. Most restaurants are very accommodating and will let you speak with the chef if you ask.
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