Gluten free food. It’s everywhere right? Following a gluten free diet might look straightforward yet in reality is far from it. Ask any coeliac how difficult and restricting a diet that eliminates gluten can truly be and they will likely tell you that they wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
So what’s the deal with the whole gluten free thing?
What is gluten-free?
Gluten free, fairly obviously, means without gluten. Gluten is the collective term given to a group of proteins that are found within wheat and some other grains. Mixed with water they form a glue like substance that gives structure and elasticity to many of our favourite foods, such as bread and pasta.
The term gluten free usually applies to foods, but is also relevant in all manner of products including drinks, medicines and toiletries. Wheat, it seems, is EVERYWHERE.
Some people react badly to gluten.
1.Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten triggers an immune response that damages the intestinal lining.
2.Gluten sensitivity shows up in symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and bloating, yet there is no damage to the intestinal lining and although the immune system may be involved is not considered an autoimmune disorder.
3. A wheat allergy is where the body creates an antibody to the glutens in wheat that triggers an immune response.
The solution is a gluten free diet.
Others choose to ‘go gluten free’ as they feel it to be beneficial to their overall health and feeling of wellbeing.
The gluten free diet.
The best gluten free diet is one made up of only fresh natural gluten free foods. Not only is it the healthiest way to eat, but is also the most cost effective. Yet for most of us this is neither practical nor desirable. A huge proportion of the foods we eat are processed. This may conjure up a diet of TV dinners, but any ingredient that is more than one step removed from its natural state has undergone some form of processing.
Unless food is labelled as gluten free, there is the possibility of some form of gluten contamination. It is this fact alone that makes following a gluten free diet way more complicated that it may seem at first glance.
Foods with gluten
There are only a handful of foods (ingredients, really) that actually contain gluten, and they are all cereal grains.
Oats also contain gluten, and not just through contamination, but do not always trigger an immune response. Read our article about gluten in oats.
There are also several forms of wheat that you may come across. These include –
Semolina is also made from wheat.
Naturally gluten free foods
Most unprocessed foods are gluten free. This includes –
- fruits and vegetables
- beans and legumes
- nuts and seeds
- eggs and dairy
- meat, fish and poultry
With the exception of cereals and grains, that’s all the major food groups right there. Yet building a diet without grains is surprisingly hard. Not to mention that the nutrition they provide is a vital part of our diet. So here’s some gluten free alternatives –
You can find out more in our guide to gluten free grains.
But even if you cook everything that passes your lips, from scratch, keeping your diet entirely gluten free is a minefield.
Gluten in foods
Some foods with gluten are really obvious. Bread, or biscuits, and pasta all spring to mind. Then there are those foods that are only obvious when you think about it. Granola, or muesli, for example. After that, the list gets more and more obscure. From the wheat used in the production of soy sauce, down to the wheat derivative used as filler in your everyday painkiller, chances are that somewhere in the chain wheat may have been involved.
And that’s before the possibility of cross contamination, or derivatives of derivatives. Yeap, some things contain things that contain things that contain things that were made of wheat. Luckily, even the smallest of obscurities should show up on the label. Not everything does, but we are getting better and better at traceability and allergen labelling.
So where does the gluten in our food come from?
- Prepared foods or products that have gluten containing ingredients.
- Food that has been prepared or processed in an area that also prepares or processes foods that contain gluten (cross contamination).
Here are just a few examples of foods that often contain gluten –
- breakfast cereal
- lollies and sweets
- plant-based meats/fish
- processed meat
- salad dressing
- soft drinks
- packet rice mixes
- potato crisps and snacks
- ready to roast chicken
Choosing gluten free products
Choosing the gluten free products that are right for you involves an understanding of two key things.
- Your own levels of gluten sensitivity.
- How foods are labelled.
Some people, regardless of their specific issues with gluten, are more sensitive than others. Some, for instance, will be triggered by the specific glutens in oats whilst another may not. There are those with coeliac disease who may react to a threshold of gluten below the recommended amount in gluten free products. Certain additives derived from wheat yet not labelled as allergens may be fine for many people yet not for others.
The first rule of gluten free food is ALWAYS CHECK THE LABEL.
Allergen labelling and gluten free foods
There are two levels of labelling in gluten free foods.
The first is certified gluten free. Foods that are labelled as gluten free have to meet a certain standard and are (by law) measured for the amount of gluten they contain. This is measured by parts per million and the exact number varies country to country.
The Australian standard is pretty strict. To be recognised as gluten free the food must contain no more than 3 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. There is another level allowed by Australian law and this is ‘low gluten’ which can be between 3 and 200ppm. If you visit another country, then food labelled as gluten free may be up to 20ppm, which although considered safe for most coeliacs, this is not always the case.
The second is for those foods that are not certified as gluten-free, yet may not have not gluten-containing ingredients. Most of these foods will carry a disclaimer that they may have been contaminated with trace amounts of all allergens, including gluten. Allergens are present in bold in the ingredients list, and will appear as the ingredient (wheat, barley, rye, triticale) not as gluten. The more parts involved in a food processing chain, the higher the likelihood of gluten contamination.
Gaining gluten free certification is an expensive process that may be out of reach for many companies, so bear this in mind and factor in your own particular sensitivities when making your choices.
Hidden gluten in products
There is a third level of label deciphering that concerns hidden gluten. Whilst most components on the ingredients label will have their own separate allergens listed, there are still some sources that slip through the net. Certain additives will have wheat derivatives that do not show up on an ingredients or allergens list. The best thing to do is familiarise yourself with these using a reputable resource such as the coeliac society.
Gluten free food products
We mentioned before that some gluten free foods are more obvious than others. The most obvious category, and possibly the most missed when on a gluten free diet, are the traditional wheat products of bread, cakes and cookies.
Gluten free cookies
The category of breakfast cereals get slightly trickier. Cornflakes are made of corn, right? Well, yes they are but unless they are certified as gluten free then there may well be gluten involved somewhere. Then there’s muesli and granola which often have as many wheat flakes as they do oats. And speaking of oats, there is no such thing as gluten free oats in Australia because oats have particular gluten proteins that can trigger gluten sensitivity.
Gluten free granola
And then there are lollies. Surely a handful of gummies is safe? Possibly not. The way that even the most seemingly benign of lollies is processed means that they can not be considered as certified gluten free.
Gluten free lollies
In a nutshell, so to speak, there is more to gluten free food than meets the eye. As much art, as it is science, it involves understanding your own body and keeping track of triggers and symptoms. Finding your way around food labelling is the key to success, and gaining as much knowledge as you possibly can about how our food is produced.
For those of you with severe gluten sensitivity then seeking out certified gluten free products is probably the safest way forward. You may need to shop around to find all the products that suit you.
You can explore our range of gluten free groceries on our online wholesale store.
This article was reproduced on this site with permission from operafoods.com.au the “Gluten free products manufacturer”.
See original article:- An Introduction to Gluten free Food