09 December 2009

All about gluten

Just recently, I've been asked a lot of questions about gluten. What is it? Why is it bad? What does it do? This made me realize that I've never actually explained it on my blog and that many of you may have the same exact questions.

First of all, the main problem with wheat flours, rice, and other grains is the high-sugar/low-nutrient content compared to other sources of carbohydrates, and not gluten. Let's make that clear. However, gluten isn't something to shrug off. It is estimated that 1 in 30 Americans have intolerances to gluten without ever knowing it, not to mention the many suffering from celiac disease and other vitamin malabsorbtion diseases. One study even shows that 1 in 3 may have issues digesting it. The "gluten free" market is the fastest growing market in the food industry today with pastries at Starbucks and cake mixes from Betty Crocker boasting their lack of our friend gluten.

So what is gluten? Gluten is a protein formed when water is added to flours from wheat, rye, barley, etc. Glutenin and gliadin are proteins in these flours that combine when they become wet and help form pastey dough for breads and give structure to cakes and muffins.

Why is it bad and what does it do? Well, it binds to vitamins in your intestines and prevents them from being absorbed. Most notably, it does this to vitamin D and calcium... Remember I said if you don't eat a high sugar diet (and in effect, a high gluten diet), then you don't need quite as much vitamin D and calcium in your diet?

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