Gluten-free has become a common term nowadays, but what does it mean to be eating gluten free?
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a substance found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. It is used as an additive in dough to create a more elastic and chewy quality. It is also added to food for flavoring. Gluten is essentially a protein. Bread and hard wheat flour usually contain a high concentration of gluten, as does pizza, pasta and bagels. Gluten can also be found in soy sauce, ketchup, ice cream and beer.
Is Gluten Shown As An Ingredient?
In the United States not all commercial foods containing gluten list the additive as an ingredient since the Food and Drug Administration classifies it as “GRAS,” which means generally recognized as safe. A small percentage of people, however, have an allergic reaction to gluten or a low tolerance for it, especially people with Celiac disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Gluten can damage the digestive system of people with these diseases, so they must be careful what they eat. Once the intestine is damaged it can lead to other problems like the body’s inability to absorb vitamins and minerals. These disorders can lead to a whole range of more serious problems and illnesses.
Eating Gluten Free, What Does It Mean?
Eating gluten free involves eliminating foods known to contain gluten, but it also requires research into foods that may not contain gluten in the labeling. Oats, such as the kind used in popular cereals, are an example of food containing gluten, without the additive being included in the labeling.
Due to its GRAS status, it’s up to companies to voluntarily list gluten as an ingredient. Labeling regulations differ around the world, but in the United States, as mandated by the FDA, the label “gluten free” means that the product contains less than a certain amount of gluten (20 parts per million). The label of “natural flavoring” could mean the inclusion of gluten.
Many grains and starches can still be consumed as part of a gluten free diet. Acceptable foods for this diet include potatoes, corn, rice, soybeans and other types of beans. Fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products can be part of the diet along with lean meat. Gluten free bread is made from almonds, rice or beans instead of wheat.
Although not all ice cream contains gluten, the additive is indeed found in a lot of ice cream to thicken the texture. Alcohol not made from grain usually does not contain gluten, although gluten could possibly be included as an additive for flavoring. Usually distillation removes gluten. Most beers contain gluten while brandy, all wines (including port wines and sherry) and tequila likely do not contain gluten.
Avoiding gluten completely is complicated, but keeping parts per million to a minimum is fairly straight forward. Keep in mind that many prescription drugs and vitamins use gluten, as do cosmetics such as lipstick and envelopes. Bakers measure the content of flour, including gluten, with a device called a farinograph. High risk individuals should consider not eating at restaurants, since not even the cooks always know exactly what are included in the ingredients.