Eating gluten-free is a trend that is gaining more and more popularity. We increasingly see that people are opting for a gluten-free diet for health or dietary reasons. But what exactly is gluten? And is it really healthier to eat gluten-free?
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley and spelt. These proteins ensure that the dough gets its elastic structure and that bread and pastries become airy. Gluten itself is not bad, but it can cause health problems for some people.
What does gluten contain?
Gluten is found in many foods, especially in products made from the aforementioned grains.
These foods contain gluten:
- Bread & bread products
- Pasta & noodles
- Cookies and pastries
- Wheat & wheat flour
- Pearl couscous
These foods sometimes contain gluten:
- Potato chips
These foods do not contain gluten:
Is Gluten Bad?
Celiac disease: This is an autoimmune disease in which the body sees gluten as a harmful substance and the immune system attacks its own body. This can lead to inflammation and damage to the small intestine. Celiac disease is hereditary and can affect both children and adults.
Wheat allergy: This is an allergic reaction to one or more proteins in wheat, including gluten. People with a wheat allergy may experience skin rashes, digestive complaints, breathing problems or even anaphylaxis after eating wheat products.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: This is a relatively new condition in which people without celiac disease or wheat allergy still experience complaints after eating gluten. The exact cause of this is not yet known.
How do you eat gluten-free?
What can you eat?
- Fruit and vegetables
- Meat, fish and poultry (without breadcrumbs or marinades containing gluten)
- Legumes (such as lentils, beans and chickpeas)
- Nuts and seeds
- Dairy products (be careful with ready-made dairy desserts)
- Grains such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat, corn and oats (note: oats can be contaminated with gluten, choose certified gluten-free oats)
- Gluten-free products such as gluten-free bread, pasta and cookies
What can't you eat?
- Products made from wheat, barley, rye and spelt, such as bread, pasta, cookies and pastries
- Beer (unless it is specifically gluten-free beer)
- Malt (e.g. malt vinegar and malt syrup)
- Some types of sauces, soups and ready-made meals that contain gluten-containing ingredients
- Some meat substitutes based on seitan (wheat protein)
Is gluten free healthier?
If you want to eat gluten-free, you need to pay attention to the ingredients of the foods you buy and eat, and choose naturally gluten-free foods or specialty gluten-free products. Make sure you eat a varied and balanced diet to get enough nutrients.
For people without gluten-related conditions, a gluten-free diet is not necessarily healthier. It is important to focus on a balanced and varied diet and to first consult a doctor or dietician if you suspect that you have a gluten-related condition.