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What does gluten free mean?

We’re going back to basics. With gluten issues becoming increasingly commonplace, Henley Nutrition is here to guide and support people through their gluten free journeys, and prove that a free-from diet does not need to mean missing out. First up, what is a gluten-free diet?

Gluten free simply means a diet free from gluten-containing foods. The term can be found on the packaging of food and drink products usually made with gluten, to show they’ve been made without it, and in a gluten-free factory.

But what on earth is it? Gluten is the protein found in the grains; wheat, barley and rye. Gluten free foods have been created with alternative, non-gluten-containing ingredients. This often means using extra protein and fibre, to recreate similar tastes and textures.


What does gluten do in foods?

When gluten-containing grain flours are used in baking, the gluten gives volume to bread. It allows air and moisture to be trapped during the mixing and kneading process to form soft, springy and moist bread and cakes.


Alternative starches replace gluten-containing grains in bakery products to give food the look and feel of traditional bakery products.


Which foods contain gluten?

But it’s not just bread that contains gluten. According to Coeliac UK, gluten-containing ingredients are often found in the following foods and drinks:


Bread

Pasta

Breakfast cereals

Flour

Pastry

Pizza bases

Cakes

Biscuits

Soups

Sauces and gravy

Ready meals

Sausages

Barley squashes

Beer

Lager

Stout

Ales

This list isn’t exhaustive. However, it is a legal requirement that foods containing gluten are identified on food labels, so they’re always simple to spot.

Other foods not typically associated with gluten can still state on their label that they may contain gluten or have been processed in an area containing gluten foods. This highlights a possible risk of cross-contamination of gluten during production. Oats are a good example of this.


So what’s the problem with gluten?

Several gut-related conditions are known to be caused by or aggravated by eating foods containing gluten. Coeliac disease, a medically diagnosed condition affecting one person in every 100, is triggered by eating gluten. Once diagnosed, gluten must be removed entirely from the diet. Very small traces of gluten, even a bread crumb, can trigger a debilitating flare-up for someone diagnosed with coeliac disease. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, a condition not as serious as coeliac disease but often uncomfortable to live with, can also be caused by eating gluten. Symptoms such as bloating may appear several hours or days after eating gluten-containing foods, which makes identifying the condition tricky.


Will I get enough nutrients by eating a gluten free diet?

Wheat, barley and rye in their natural form are known as whole grains and contain a good supply of fibre, B vitamins and minerals. It is a good practice to introduce whole grains and legumes regularly to your diet, such as brown rice, quinoa or lentils, to make up for any lost nutrients.

If you think that gluten may be causing gut-related symptoms, discuss the matter with your GP. Further information about coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity can be found in our blog section.

This information is not designed to replace the advice from your doctor.


If you think you have a gluten intolerance, wheat allergy and would like to discuss your symptoms or diet, please contact Henley Nutrition.

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