Tuesday, April 15, 2014

To Gluten or Not to Gluten...

Look around at what is on the shelves in the health food section at your local grocer or go to a specialty market and you are bound to find several products that are labeled 'gluten-free'. There are diets, books, apps, and products offered in abundance every which way you turn that help you eliminate gluten from your life but when it comes down to it, what in the world is gluten? Is it something that should be avoided like the black plague or is totally fine to incorporate in your everyday diet? Let us examine the world of gluten and you decide if it is right for you or not.

Gluten is an elastic protein  from wheat, rye, spelt, and barley that is found in and used as a filler in a lot of products! It gives the elastic composition to dough, keeping it soft and also giving it its chewy texture. Gluten is like glue, it holds baked goods, pastas and products together. Really, "gluten" can be found in all grains but it is the specific type found in the four aforementioned grains that cause a lot of the health issues we associate with gluten. Gluten, specifically gliadin and glutenin,  is part of the genetic structure of kamut, durum, semolina, couscous, orzo, and farro. This is where it gets tricky... a lot of products claim to be wheat-free, (which is great if you have a wheat intolerance) but this does not necessarily make them gluten-free.

Luckily, you can find lists (or apps or websites) full of products that contain gluten in addition to foods that are gluten-free to help you navigate your way. Below is a list of top places to check for gluten (besides the usual breads, pastas, pastries):
  • soy sauce
  • imitation crab
  • licorice
  • seasoning packets
  • natural flavoring
  • BBQ sauces
  • salad dressings
  • hard candies
  • cornflakes and rice krispies
  • chocolate
  • ice cream
  • broth
  • yogurt and other dairy products such as sour cream
  • miso
  • fish sauce
  • oyster sauce
  • mole
  • beverages such as sports drinks or iced tea mixes
  • malt vinegar
  • oats
Now if you feel like you might have an intolerance to gluten or want to see how you feel going sans-gluten, give it a try! It is going to be quite hard at first because I would say about 90% of things have gluten in them. Stick to fresh, whole foods and look for items with the 'Certified Gluten Free' label which there are a ton of products out there now compared to 5 years ago. Try eliminating all gluten from your diet for at least 2 weeks and pay close attention to how you feel. Monitor your digestive track ie bloat, constipation, are you feeling more regular than usual? Take notice to your skin if you have breakouts; is it clearing up? How is your energy levels? Your mood? If you find you are feeling better, you may have an intolerance. If you feel the same, than you probably do not. After the elimination phase, add in a meal that contains gluten and pay very close attention to how you feel after. This is where you might be surprised. If you still feel the same as before, that's wonderful but if you feel awful, than there is a great chance you have an intolerance to gluten.

This post is meant to be informative and a guide if you decide to try gluten-free. For me, I noticed that I felt better and was able to get rid of my acid reflux after following a gluten-free diet. When it comes to nutrition, there is no cookie cutter program. It is an individualized approach to find what works best for YOU!

Here is a favorite gluten-free recipe that I love to make. It is super easy, quick to make and makes a great snack. 


  1. Great post! I do hear it from others how they feel so much better going gluten free. Agree it is hard to do and to find those truely gluten free products. Definitely something I would like to gave a try. Your peanut recipe sounds great. I will have to try that. Your mixed nuts must be raw unseasoned? Thanks!

  2. Yes! They are unsalted raw nuts from the bulk section :)