What is Gluten

Gluten you are hearing this everywhere these days but what is gluten exactly?  Well I could give you all the science and technical terms but we want simple easy to understand terms.  Simply put gluten is a protein in some grains that are used to make breads, pastas, cakes and things that give that elastic (stretchy) texture of dough.

So what grains?  Wheat (including semolina, durum, emmer, einkorn, spelt, farro, and KAMUT khorasan wheat), Barley, Rye and Triticale (a cross bread of wheat and rye).  Oats is often listed because of where the oats are processed they become cross contaminated.  Naturally, Oats are gluten free.

Now you know what gluten is.  Before I go any further I’ve been asked if I can eat rice or potatoes.  Yes, neither of those are wheat.  Rice is a grain but is also a swamp grass.  A potato is part of the nightshade family and is a tuber.  You can eat either of these.  Flour for cooking and baking is made from both of these as well.

So when I write about gluten I’m referencing wheat, barley, rye, and Triticale.  It’s easier to write gluten then list out all of those grains all of the time.  Breads, rolls, cookies, cakes, cereals, and pastas are the major things that include “gluten” in them.  That doesn’t mean you can’t eat those things.  That means that you need to learn how to read food labels and replace the items that contain gluten in them with items that do not.

You may hear someone say they had to give up other things along with gluten.  It’s very common for people to have to give up dairy and beef.  The reason for this is that dairy and beef is a secondary gluten source.  Primary gluten would be eating breads, cereals, pastas, etc.

Cattle for beef or diary purposes often eat wheat grass.  Wheat grass is another form of wheat – a primary source.  Cattle eat the wheat grass.  This means “gluten” gets into the meat or the milk and can present problems for people who are celiac or have gluten allergies.  Do not do this unless a medical professional has guided you to do so.

My doctor and I have discussed giving up dairy and beef, at this time he does not want me too – so I haven’t!  If you do not have to give up dairy or beef then don’t!   Other people who have consulted with medical professionals may have to give it up and will recommend that you do it.  I say this in many places but you need to follow what you and your medical professional have discussed.  Everyone will respond differently.

So we have primary sources of gluten, secondary sources and then hidden gluten.   Yes, gluten hides.  Basically things are made with gluten and then sold as other products.  For example, types of coloring put in foods contain gluten.  The hardest part of going gluten free is the hidden gluten.  The majority of people I talk to consume hidden gluten and struggle with how to find out if it has gluten in it.

Here at The Gluten Gourmet I hope you find recipes, pantry items, places to eat and tips on how to go gluten free.

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