Is gluten bad for you? No, unless you have celiac disease, are gluten intolerant, or have a wheat allergy. Why do you think gluten has such a negative reputation these days? It may be largely media driven. Gluten is part of the protein in wheat, which is a good grain that sustains millions around the world in the form of bread. About 1 in every 100 Americans has a digestion system that cannot tolerate the gluten in wheat. What’s the biggest mistake people make with regard to a gluten-free diet?

They believe/hope that the health/weight loss benefits from the diet will occur overnight. Everyone is looking for a culinary magic bullet, but it takes work to be healthy. Who should consider a gluten-free diet? Probably anyone, if that means eliminating highly processed foods and eating fresh foods made from healthful ingredients! It is tempting to think that a gluten-free diet will instantly result in weight loss and great health. However, the reason most people find that their health improves on a gluten-free diet is simple: they are, skipping highly processed junk foods. Gluten occurs ONLY in wheat, barley and rye. Everything else — vegetables, fruits, olive oil, nuts, beans, lentils, rice, corn, dairy products, eggs, poultry, fish, meat, wine and even chocolate — is gluten-free. The reason that a gluten-free diet is considered restrictive is because wheat flour (a major source of gluten) is included in almost every processed food made in the USA, including: frozen meals, chips and snacks, “health” bars, breakfast cereals, donuts, cookies and cakes. Sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs also involve wheat flour. In addition, all these products usually contain huge amounts of fats, salt, sugar, and additives to prolong shelf life. How can I tell if I have a gluten sensitivity or allergy? Celiac disease and other wheat-related conditions can have many different symptoms, from bloating and debilitating gastrointestinal upsets to a rash. If you suspect you have a wheat issue, see a physician and ask to be tested, but NOT after going gluten free, because then you won’t have the telltale antibodies in your bloodstream. What are some easy substitutes for gluten if you like the taste and feel of foods such as pasta? Gluten-free pasta, made from brown rice, soy, potatoes, quinoa, and corn is now available. Up until quite recently, gluten-free bread made from alternative flours tasted awful. Thanks to all the publicity about gluten, manufacturers have now come up with soft, sliced, gluten-free bread that approximate familiar sandwich bread, plus hamburger buns, bagels, pizza crusts, and sweet bakery items. Keep in mind many gluten-free products are not fortified with added nutrients and are often high in sugar. What do people on a gluten-free diet need to be mindful of in terms of nutrition? If you eat a balanced, varied diet of foods derived from plants (vegetables, grains, beans, olive oil, nuts, fruit) plus eggs, fish and poultry, good nutrition will take care of itself.
By: Janet Hunt

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