Gluten-free diets have attracted an enormous amount of buzz in recent years, with gluten-free options cropping up everywhere from high-profile restaurants to local supermarkets. Cutting gluten out of one’s diet has become a popular move among both those with celiac disease, a condition in which consuming gluten can cause serious damage to the small intestine, and those who simply want to reduce their dependence on carbs. Whether you’re looking at a major lifestyle shift or are simply curious, it’s well worth asking what it means to be gluten-free, which foods deserve your attention, and what’s the best way to explore a gluten-free lifestyle.
Keep reading to learn what being gluten-free is and why it matters.
What Is Gluten, Anyway?
First things first: What exactly is gluten? Essentially acting as the “glue” that binds various food components together, gluten is a naturally occurring protein that shows up in wheat, barley, rye, and certain other types of grain. As a result, gluten can be found in everything from pasta and cereal to a broad range of condiments, soups, and more. While the core of a gluten-free lifestyle entails staying away from obviously wheat-based products like bread, gluten often shows up in less obvious items like soy sauce and gravy.
In addition to food considerations, there’s also a strong case to be made for gluten-free haircare and makeup. For those with a high level of sensitivity to gluten (including those who don’t necessarily suffer from celiac disease), gluten can cause adverse reactions even if it’s not ingested.
If you’ve never given much thought to the role of gluten in your diet and lifestyle, now might be the time. According to Alessio Fasano, a specialist in celiac disease, “Our research has shown that the immune system responds to gluten in different ways depending on genetic disposition and other factors, such as bacteria in the gut. This is important because, for the first time, we can help people who test negative for celiac disease but still react badly to gluten. In general, reactions to gluten fall along a spectrum that ranges from wheat allergy to celiac disease to gluten sensitivity.”
Over the past few years, retailers have become far more conscientious about noting the gluten content of their products. And even when you don’t see the little “GF” logo next to your favorite veggie bowl on the menu, it never hurts to ask. To facilitate your foray into gluten-free living, the Celiac Disease Foundation offers an excellent guide on foods are gluten-free.
Up next, keep reading to discover six surprising gluten-free foods.