Newsflash: Gluten goes way beyond bread.
That’s not a newsflash to you, by the way. It’s to me.
Did you know that the list of grains and starches that contain gluten rings up at a whopping 23?! Up until just this past weekend (while researching for this post ironically), I hadn’t even heard of some of them.
It’s probably a good thing though that I read those articles and I’m a bit more educated. Especially since so many gluten-free foods claim to be “healthier” than others.
I’ve never claimed to be an expert, but it’s still important to me that I research the topics I talk about the best that I can. I don’t want to give you guys bad information because I’m lazy.
At the same time, the issues surrounding gluten are WAY more than I care to expound on, especially when no one in my family has any issues with the stuff. There are PLENTY of really great bloggers whose primary focus is gluten-free, like Kelly at The Nourishing Home and Adrienne at Whole New Mom. Both ladies are incredibly sweet friends of mine and are well versed in dealing with allergies. If you need more information on gluten-free than I’ll be sharing with you this week, go see them.
With that said, I’m adding another official disclaimer to add to the pile: I have zero experience with gluten allergies. None.
This post is not me claiming to be an expert. This post is the Crumbs version of Wikipedia, as my husband likes to call it.
He said something really sweet to me over the weekend. He said he enjoys reading my blog because it has all the information that he would be looking for on a topic (say high fructose corn syrup or plastic in our coffee or how to make almond milk) in a short and simple version that’s easy to understand. No crazy science that’s over his head and makes him want to tune out, but enough to know that it’s not completely made up.
So that’s what today’s post on gluten is. It’s the short answer to a very long and complicated topic. It should be enough to equip you to join in at the water cooler… since going gluten-free seems to be a hot water cooler topic these days.
What is Gluten?
Gluten consists of two proteins, gliadin (which makes bread rise) and glutenin (which makes bread have elasticity). Gluten is found in foods in the wheat family. Any good, chewy bread can thank the gluten in the wheat.
What Foods Contain Gluten?
It sounds simple enough – gluten is found in wheat – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For starters, the wheat family is huge! The entire contaminated list of includes more grains that you can shake a stick at:
- barley malt/extract
- matzo flour/meal
- wheat bran/germ/starch
- Huge list containing “unsafe” ingredients here.
Gluten is in the whole grain, and any derivative of the grain. It’ll be in the wheat berry and any flour made from that same wheat berry. Remember how flours like all-purpose, bread, pastry, etc. all stem from wheat? Those all contain gluten too, thereby off limits for someone who is allergic.
It may sound redundant, but gluten is also in any ingredient that was made with another ingredient that contained gluten. Like malt vinegar, since it started with barley malt.
The wheat we have today (and many of its variations) have been hybridized by farmers to yield more grain, stand up to the environment, and make “better” bread. However, farther studies have shown that some ancient grains containing gluten can be tolerated by those with gluten sensitivities. One of those grains is Einkorn. You can read more about it specifically HERE.
What Foods Do Not Contain Gluten?
There are some grains though that are naturally gluten-free:
- brown rice
- flours from nuts/beans/seeds
- potato starch or flour
- white rice
- Huge list containing “safe” ingredients here.
Because these grains don’t contain gluten, the grains themselves and any derivative flours are safe to consume. Some other non-grain flours include almond flour and coconut flour.
Notice that oats is starred on both lists. Oats themselves are gluten-free, but sometimes they can be processed in plants that use the same equipment to also process wheat. This makes them ineligible to be “gluten-free” by cross-contamination. Actually, this is the case for several of the grains listed on the gluten-free list.
For our simple purposes, that list is more than sufficient. If you happen to converse with someone who has Celiac disease at that water cooler and they argue that some of those items aren’t truly gluten-free, and that gluten is also found in soy sauce, ketchup and ice cream, back off and let them win the battle. Then quickly find a different water cooler.
If you’re looking for some of the best prices for these grains, gluten-free or not, check out Amazon and Thrive Market. They often have better prices than your local health food store and carry items that are difficult to find at mainstream grocery stores.
Plus at Thrive Market you can get a free 15 oz jar of coconut oil AND a 30-day free trial to Thrive Market when you spend $29 or more (free shipping on orders $49+)! Go through this link to get this amazing deal!
Real Food and Gluten
How does the issue of gluten affect our continuous attempts at eating real food? That my friends is an easy answer. It doesn’t!
Gluten isn’t an additive – it’s part of the DNA of those grains. Sure it can be extracted and made available all by itself (commonly known as vital wheat gluten), and in that case it can be added to items for the benefits that gluten provides. However, if we are striving to eat food that is as real and as close to its original source as possible, then gluten isn’t an issue.
Carrots? Apples? Butter? Coconut oil?
All gluten-free. Eating real food doesn’t equate to avoiding gluten.
However – I am not an expert on gluten. There are many people who become violently ill if they eat something that was prepared using contaminated utensils. And the contamination can be ever so slight!
I’m just saying that if you’re trying to eat less processed foods and more traditionally prepared foods, eating less gluten is not a battle you need to fight.
Unless you’re allergic. And that’s a whole different issue.
But there’s good news on that front too. One study shows that fully fermented wheat (i.e. sourdough) reduces the gluten content to such a small amount that celiac patients were able to consume the equivalent of six slices of bread on a daily basis for 60 days without any noticeable reactions.
Another study found similar results, with all five participating celiac patients having no adverse reaction to baked goods made with properly fermented flour.