The war on gluten seems to only be getting stronger and stronger as time passes. But what is the truth about gluten? Is it really all doom and gloom? Do you need to go gluten free to feel optimal and healthy? In this blog post I will attempt to break down gluten and explain why I am not anti-gluten and why I continue to eat it in moderation.
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What is Gluten?
Before we get into all things gluten free, what the heck is gluten exactly? Gluten is a composite of storage proteins that is stored together with starch in the endosperm of various cereal grains. It is the glue that holds together the food essentially. This elasticity is what gives breads, pizzas and bagels (to name a few) its shape. Without it, you don’t quite get the same texture. This is often times why gluten free breads are much more dense.
What are the Issues with Gluten?
Gluten has been around for a long time and although the majority of the population is fine to eat gluten, we tend to oversimplify things a bit. I find in the wellness world, one of the first things many nutritionists tend to tell a client is to cut gluten (and then dairy). It isn’t my approach by any means and although it *could* be helpful in certain instances, it isn’t the magic pill solution to your health issues. Hint- there is no magic solution.
What About GMO Wheat?
I’ve been hearing about genetically modified wheat for quite a while. Many people say that the rise in gluten sensitivity may be due to the way the wheat was grown- i.e. it was genetically modified. However, the truth is- there is no such thing as GMO wheat. Currently, there is no GMO commercially available wheat, so it would be impossible to blame GMO’s in this case.
But this doesn’t mean that wheat hasn’t changed over the years. Because it has. This is the result of a process called hybridization (which is different from genetic engineering). Some scientists say those changes *could* be one cause of an increase in the number of people who are unable to tolerate gluten.
In hybridization, scientists don’t tinker directly with the plant’s genome. Instead, they choose particular strains of a plant with desirable characteristics and breed them to reinforce those characteristics. When this is done repeatedly, successive generations of a particular plant can look very different from the plant’s ancestors.https://www.verywellhealth.com/is-gmo-wheat-causing-increases-in-gluten-issues-562530
Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, says small changes in wheat protein structure can spell the difference between a devastating immune response to wheat protein versus no immune response at all. Thus modern wheat has been bred to contain more gluten. However, this has not been proven in any scientific study.
It may not be that gluten intolerance or celiac disease is on the rise as mainstream media may report. In fact it could be that we have been eating more of it in addition to how much of it is in processed foods.
But, Do You Need to Go Gluten Free?
There are a few different categories of people that need to go gluten free.
- Those diagnosed with celiac disease (about 1% of the population).
- Those that are gluten intolerant or sensitive.
- Those with IBS.
- Thos with a wheat allergy (about 1% of the population).
- Those needing to follow a low FODMAP diet.
Other than that, I would personally say that if you feel ok having gluten, don’t worry about cutting it out. There may be a lot of other things causing a health issue and working with a qualified professional is one way to get to the root of the issue.
If you are curious to see what my own personal meal plans look like, have a look at my FREE meal plan to see how you can start incorporating more real foods in your life and get a handle on meal prep.
Sources of Gluten that I Recommend:
As a Holistic Nutritionist and foodie, I always like to strive for balance (as overused as this word is). What that means to me is choosing high quality ingredients from real food sources. That also means the occasional treat or processed food is also ok. I don’t like labels on my food choices or feeling guilty for eating certain things, you can read more about that here. Below is a list of food choices that contain gluten that are usually my go-to’s.
- Sourdough bread (fermented, easier to digest and also just delicious).
- Sprouted bread (I like Ezekiel bread from Food for Life because it is sprouted and thus easier to digest).
- Whole grains like spelt or kamut. These grains are higher in protein and fibre than traditional white pasta plus they taste closer to white pasta than anything else I’ve tried. Check out my butternut squash pasta sauce with crispy sage below!
- High quality, fresh homemade pasta all day everyday. Nothing can beat some tasty homemade pasta in my opinion, or a great quality pizza. My advice is to simply choose one based on ingredients used and if you’re going out to eat and you want to indulge in one of these items, you do you.
- Rye crisps/flatbreads/crackers. These are usually quite high in fibre and contain a decent amount of protein. They make for a filling snack or a light lunch if you top them with things like hummus, avocado or smoked salmon. I like this brand.
Sources of Gluten Free Options:
Because of the surge in a gluten free diet, we have definitely seen an increase in the amount of products available. Some are great and are naturally gluten free by nature and some are highly processed and don’t offer much nutritionally speaking. If you need to follow a gluten free diet, then check out some of the options below.
- Corn: I like using corn tortillas as chips or for tacos as these are actually the most traditional anyways. Be sure to check the ingredients to see if they are being filled with other ingredients such as crappy vegetable oils or even contain wheat.
- Chickpea and lentil pasta: I love these types of pastas and tend to go for them the most when I cook at home. I love the taste and texture of them plus they contain so much fibre and protein! Both the Chickapea brand and Banza are great options.
- Gluten free flours: my go-to gluten free flours are usually coconut, almond, oat (I usually just grind my own gluten free oats in my blender), arrowroot or chickpea. There are so many others, such as sorghum, teff, buckwheat, amaranth, rice, tigernut and cassava but they aren’t usually my personal go-to’s.
- Check out my gluten free super seed crackers made with nori below, they are so high in fibre and taste amazing topped with some smashed avocado.
I hope this has helped answer the question – do you need to go gluten free? Other then if you need to follow a gluten free diet for health reasons as mentioned above, I don’t personally subscribe to a gluten free diet. If it makes you feel better to cut gluten out, even if only for a short time, then do what works for you.
Don’t forget to check out my FREE meal prep guide and meal plan to help get you started on your real food journey, or even if you are just looking for some fresh new inspo!
Tell me, have you cut out gluten and have you found it beneficial? Let me know in the comments!