8 Things You Didn't Know About Gluten

Here's what you should know before you make a decision about going gluten-free
8 Things You Didn't Know About Gluten


Gluten is a naturally occurring elastic protein found in a number of foods. Though foods like corn also contain forms of gluten, gluten-free eating has come to mean the avoidance of gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye products. This means avoiding beer, most types of bread, baked goods, pastas, and cereals as well as certain salad dressings, sauces, soups, and food colorings.

There's quite a bit of debate surrounding gluten these days. With increased awareness of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance and widespread public concerns about nutrition, health, and wellness gluten has become a major topic of discussion. Despite the growing popularity of going gluten-free, most people don't have all the facts about gluten: what it is, where it comes from, and what it does and does not do to the body. Completely eliminating anything from your diet will have significant impacts (both positive and negative) on your body's ability to function, so it's important to make an informed decision. When it comes to gluten, there are pros and cons to going gluten-free.

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First and foremost, anyone with diagnosed with Celiac disease should absolutely not consume wheat gluten, regardless of any benefits associated with consumption. Celiac disease is a disorder in which gluten damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from functioning properly; this clearly outweighs any other benefits of consuming wheat. The question of whether or not to go gluten-free is for those not diagnosed with Celiac disease; those of us that believe we are "sensitive" or "intolerant" and those of us that use the gluten-free diet as a way to eat more healthfully or lose weight. Or, for those of us that are unsure if we should join the gluten-free diet trend.

According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, only one percent of people in the United States are medically diagnosed Celiac-sufferers (although it’s estimated that 83 percent of Americans with Celiac disease are undiagnosed, and the number of diagnosed cases will climb significantly in the coming years), so the majority of people in the U.S. can likely have gluten if they so choose. And, like anything else, there are reasons to go gluten-free and reasons not to go gluten-free. Much of your decision about what to eat has to be based in careful consideration of the facts and your own observations about how your body feels and functions with or without a certain type of food.

Gluten-free eating should not be taken lightly; it can have significant and lasting impacts on your health. Here are a few things you should know before making a decision about whether or not to go gluten-free:

Gluten-Free Eating May Alleviate Migraines

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Studies have shown that a gluten-free diet is an effective treatment for migraine headaches. One study even showed the total disappearance of severe migraine attacks when participants adopted a gluten-free diet.

Gluten-Free Foods Won’t Necessarily Help You Lose Weight

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A gluten-free diet is often confused with a carbohydrate-free diet (which likely contributes to the myth that a gluten-free diet will help you lose weight). A gluten-free diet still includes starchy foods like corn and rice. Ultimately, if you consume more calories than you expend (regardless of whether they come from gluten or not) you will gain weight.

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Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.

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