As a nutritionist and personal trainer, this has been the most commonly asked question as of late.
Gluten, a term that until recently was only used by physicians, dietitians, and people inflicted with Celiac Disease, is now the one of the biggest trending words in the world of nutrition. Although gluten-free diets have grown immensely in popularity, many people don’t understand exactly what gluten is, where it is found, and that it isn’t necessarily a problem for all who consume it.
Gluten is actually a word that describes a grouping of proteins (known as Promalins and Glutelins) that are found in certain grains and grain products, most commonly wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and triticale (a combination of wheat and rye). This protein matrix is very important in the structure of these grains, especially for baking, as gluten gives baked goods the rise and texture we find so appealing in our favorite breads, cookies, and cakes. When a person with Celiac Disease consumes this protein complex, their digestive tracts become irritated and inflamed causing them to poorly digest carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. This poor digestion can lead to unwanted weight loss, bone disease, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and vitamin deficiencies. It is estimated that only 1% of our population is inflicted with Celiac Disease.
Gluten intolerance is a new phrase that is responsible for the recent rise in gluten-free diets. People with gluten intolerance experience the same uncomfortable digestive problems when consuming gluten, but don’t suffer the intestinal damage and ensuing medical problems and deficiencies as those inflicted with Celiac Disease. There is no effective way to accurately test and diagnose gluten intolerance though, which has led to many people self-diagnosing and subsequently self-prescribing themselves a gluten-free diet. The truth is, we still have a lot to learn about the effects of gluten-containing processed foods, but if you do not experience digestive discomfort when eating whole grain wheat products, they can still be incorporated and enjoyed in your daily diet.
If you have Celiac Disease or are on a gluten-free diet, here is a deliciously filling Gluten-Free Almond Butter Bread recipe that will nix your craving for non-gluten-free bread.