A: Gluten is a protein that is found in grains including wheat, rye and barley products. Some people choose to restrict gluten in their diet due to sensitivity or an intolerance to gluten. Other individuals that follow a gluten-free diet are those with celiac disease. Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune disease that when gluten is consumed, the small intestine becomes damaged, making it difficult to absorb nutrients. The only treatment for this disease is to follow a gluten-free diet eliminating wheat, rye and barley products.
Gluten is also hidden in numerous other foods such as oats, couscous, bran and many flavorings, sauces or thickeners. When required to follow this diet, it is important to be able to read food labels and pick out ingredients that may cause a reaction. If there is a questionable ingredient listed, contact the food manufacturer to make sure the product is gluten-free. There are many different gluten-free products on the market today to choose from including breads and pastas made with corn, rice, soy and quinoa flours. Keep in mind that just because a product indicates that it is gluten-free does not necessarily mean that it is “healthy” or “good for you,” just that it doesn’t contain wheat, rye or barley. Also, some products state that they are “wheat-free,” which doesn’t necessarily mean it is a gluten-free product. Visit your local dietitian to learn more about how to follow a gluten-free diet and hidden sources of gluten.
Information provided by Missy Anker, Registered Dietitian, Hy-Vee, 5750 Merle Hay Road, Johnston, 270-9045.