Gluten-free has recently become a big marketing trend – some call it a fad, while those with gluten intolerance are thankful for the widespread options. Many grocery stores and restaurants now have bold gluten-free labels on their food, menus, and store aisles. The phrase wheat-free is also popular, but is not to be confused with gluten-free. Don’t know the difference? Here’s a breakdown:
“Wheat-free” literally means a product contains no wheat (white or whole wheat flour). Foods that often contain wheat are: breads, cookies, pizza, pasta, tortillas, fried food – pretty much all the stuff you feel guilty about after you eat it. It can even be found in certain sauces like soy sauce.
People often avoid consuming wheat because it can cause uncomfortable reactions in the body such as bloating, gas, constipation, skin rashes, allergic reactions, and asthma. For those that have these symptoms, eliminating wheat may result in an improvement within a week.
“Gluten-free” is more extensive than “wheat-free”. Gluten is a protein found in many grains, such as wheat, rye, spelt and barely. It can often sneak into foods that are typically gluten-free – for example, oats are often cross-contaminated with wheat – this is why it is very important to check labels.
People cut gluten out of their diets for numerous reasons. While it is uncommon, some have a condition called Celiac Disease, which is an autoimmune disease – this effects only about 1% of the population. Others are sensitive to gluten and experience gastrointestinal symptoms and skin reactions, similar to those mentioned in the wheat-free section.
Alternatives: There are many delicious wheat-free (spelt, rice, buckwheat, quinoa and millet) and gluten-free (rice, quinoa, buckwheat and millet) products available at markets and restaurants – more alternatives than would fit on this site! You don’t have to give up sandwiches, pasta dishes, desserts, or even beer (which usually contains barely) – just look for the GF symbol and you’ll be surprised at all the options. If you’re looking for recipes, do a web search for “gluten-free recipe” and you’ll find millions of them.
Do your research. Just because a product is free of wheat or gluten does not mean that it is healthy or that it will help you lose weight – eat processed foods in moderation. It is recommended to consult a doctor if you are unsure whether you should or need to eliminate gluten from your diet.