The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

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Dispelling all the common myths regarding gluten

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Gluten seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue lately, which is ironic because, it’s not that we are eating more of it; it’s because we are declaring our newfound desire to go gluten-free.

It’s the new fad: to be free of gluten. Just the way it rolls off the tongue makes it falsely sound healthier.

According to National Public Radio’s Eating and Health podcast, The Salt, one in three Americans are trying to avoid gluten products.

I even considered eating more products that were gluten-free. But after doing some digging, I’m going to dish you the 411 on the myths and facts of gluten, and whether or not you should be indulging in it.gluten

Myth: Gluten is only found in breads

Fact: Gluten is a mixture of proteins in wheat, rye and barley. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, these proteins are found in the grain’s endosperm, which is used to produce flour.

It is the component responsible for the beloved chewy texture that we find among my personal favorites: breads, baked goods, pastas, pizza and bagels.

Gluten also appears in other unexpected foods, such as thickeners in sauces, soups, cereal and some french fries, depending on gluten contamination from shared fryers.

Myth: We should all go gluten-free.

Fact:  We should make this decision based on our individual bodies’ responses to gluten, and after contacting a medical professional and nutritionist.

According to nutritionist Karen Ansel at Women’s Health magazine, the individuals who should be eating gluten-free meals are those who have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.

According to Beyond Celiac, approximately 1 percent of individuals in the U.S. are affected by celiac disease. Celiac is a genetic autoimmune disease, where gluten damages the small intestine, causing gastrointestinal problems and nutritional deficiencies.

Gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, is when gluten causes cramping, diarrhea and bloating without damaging the intestine.

So, if you are allergic or unable to tolerate it, you should be avoiding gluten all together.

Myth: If we don’t have allergies or intolerances to gluten, this means we should be avoiding it too, since it has no nutritional value for us.

Fact:  Although gluten doesn’t necessarily allow individuals to obtain a ton of nutritional benefits, the whole grain foods that contain gluten possess the essential nutrients iron, vitamin B and fiber.

So, according to Women’s Health, giving up gluten may result in the elimination of a large amount of foods in one main food group, increasing the potential for nutritional deficiencies.

Myth: Going gluten-free increases the amount of vitamin and mineral intake, reducing bloating and increasing energy.

fFct: Well, going gluten-free doesn’t actually reduce bloating. In fact, if bloating is reduced, it’s due to the fact that the types of gluten-free foods that we can consume are limited, meaning we are actually eating less.

According to Consumer Reports, gluten-free foods aren’t necessarily healthier or contain more vitamins and minerals.

These foods possess more fat and sugar to help bind them together, since they lack the gluten that would naturally create the binding, meaning it could actually result in the opposite intended effect of increased bloating and less energy.

Thus, it’s critical to have the guidance of a nutritionist who can help guide you along the way if you do have celiac or are intolerant.

Energy levels do increase in gluten-free individuals who are allergic or gluten intolerant because they are now avoiding the foods that make them sick. This same response does not occur in those who do not get sick from gluten.

So, based on what we know so far, gluten is only an enemy to those allergic and intolerant. For those of us without these conditions who are looking to become a tad bit healthier, there are more beneficial solutions than reducing the amount of gluten intake.

So please, by all means, do not be afraid to get your gluten on!

It’s actually not the gluten that is harming you, after all.

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The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883
Dispelling all the common myths regarding gluten