What is Gluten? Plus Gluten-Free Recipes to Try
Even if you aren’t gluten intolerant, eliminating gluten from your diet can be beneficial.
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barely. It’s what helps grain-based foods like bread and pasta hold their shape.
However, gluten can be found in many other products. Baked goods, canned soups, crackers, desserts, dressings, medications, candies, cosmetics, and even supplements can contain gluten, which makes it difficult to avoid if you aren't reading labels.
Unless you or someone you know has Celiac disease (an autoimmune condition that causes the intestinal tract to react negatively to gluten) or a gluten allergy, bread, pasta, and all sorts of gluten-heavy delicacies are probably filling your plate daily.
Benefits of gluten-free diets
- Gluten is an inflammatory food.
Chronic inflammation is an increasingly common diagnosis that affects an estimated 40% of people in the United States. Inflammation is often a symptom of chronic diseases like arthritis and diabetes, but it can also reveal itself through body soreness, fatigue, digestive issues, and skin rashes.
For some, gluten can prolong the presence of inflammation in the body or even make it worse. In fact, when healthcare providers issue anti-inflammatory diets for their patients, gluten is one of the first foods to go off the menu.
- More of the population is gluten intolerant.
Even if you don’t have Celiac disease, you could be sensitive to gluten if you often experience symptoms with no known cause like intestinal issues, headaches and brain fog, fatigue, depression, joint and body pain, arthritis, and skin problems.
It’s estimated that 13% of the population has gluten sensitivities, and most people are undiagnosed. If you’re experiencing symptoms like the ones above, especially within a few hours or days of consuming whole grains, consider eliminating gluten from your diet for a few weeks and seeing if your symptoms improve.
Myths about gluten-free foods
Although there are some health benefits to ditching gluten, here are a few myths to watch out for:
- Myth: Gluten-free foods can help me lose weight.
- Truth: There are a lot of fad diets that claim that gluten-free foods aid in weight loss, but there is limited research to prove this. Many packaged gluten-free foods replace wheat proteins with added sugar and more fattening substances like potato starch. Eating less carb-heavy and more naturally gluten-free foods like legumes, fruits, vegetables, and cheese in moderation can help you meet your weight goals.
- Myth: Gluten-free diets are healthier.
- Truth: Unless you have celiac disease or a definite gluten allergy, eating foods that contain gluten is more nutritious than opting for a gluten-free option.
Gluten-free recipes to try
If you’re ready to try out some gluten-free foods, check out these quick recipes: