What Does "Gluten Free" Even Mean?!

“Oh I eat only gluten free.” “Is that gluten free?” “I ONLY eat at gluten free restaurants.” “Oh, its gluten free, so it’s healthy” How many times have you heard these statements? These days, chances are you've heard them plenty! Today’s blog is all about gluten and what it actually means in terms of our food and health.

Gluten free products are everywhere today, and for two reasons. First, (mainly and most important), companies see a major opportunity to capitalize on consumers (us) and our constant search for food produts that make us feel GOOD when we are at the grocery store. Second, there are people who actually need to live a gluten free lifestyle. People with celiac disease and those who are gluten intolerant/sensitive must follow a gluten free diet as a treatment, not a trend.

So, what is Gluten? Gluten (from Latin gluten, "glue") is a protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye and oats. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape, and it often gives the final product a chewy texture. Source

As I always say, it's so important to pay attention to your body and what its telling you about the food you eat. You may in fact have a gluten sensitivity, like I do, but not know it. Things like whole grain wheat pasta or whole wheat bread do not sit well with my body. I avoid wheat and sometimes purchase gluten free products.

Signs you may be gluten intolerant (non celiac) 1. Low energy after eating meals that contain gluten 2. Irritable after eating meals that contain gluten 3. Headaches or migraines 4. Numbness and tingling in your extremities 5. Poor digestive health, including constipation, gas, bloating and/or stomach pain

6. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, or Multiple Sclerosis

7. Mood swings, depression and anxiety

8. Acne

If you don't have to follow a gluten free diet, is it still better to buy gluten free products?

The gluten free trend has created a misconception that gluten free means health and weight loss. When in fact, some gluten free products often contain the same questionable ingredients we see in other packaged food. For instance, packaged gluten free cookies are no healthier than the Oreo’s…they just aren’t lol. The proof is in the ingredients list!

The whole issue I have with the gluten free movement is the packaged products being marketed to us as health food when in fact they are not. If you are concerned about gluten the best thing to do is stick with whole foods that are not packaged. Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and humanely raised meat and fish will always provide more nutritional benefit than what you find in a gluten package.

It is worth noting that I am not anti-wheat or gluten. If you can eat gluten without any of the issues listed above, go for it. This is more of a guideline for those that do have issues with gluten and want to avoid it.

Lastly, if you are confused and really don't care, that's ok also - lol!

Grocery shopping tips!

* Fill your cart with tons of fruits and vegetables regardless of what food category you place yourself.

* Experiment with NEW grains such as brown rice noodles/bread, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, gluten free oats, quinoa

*Read labels on gluten free products. The proof of what is healthy and what is not is always on the labels!

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