Gluten-free eating continues to grow in popularity, but we promise you it’s more than a fad. People choose to avoid gluten for so many reason – everything from health, environmental reasons, and also just simply because they feel better without gluten in their life.
Keep reading to learn the answers to your most burning questions about gluten!
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is the name for the proteins found in wheat, spelt, rye, barley, and other gluten-containing grains. Gluten is stretchy and glue-like, giving it a unique property ideal for making bread, baked goods, and other processed foods. It’s kind of the secret sauce of the baking world but rest assured, you can have a treat that’s both good for you, and delicious and still be gluten free. In fact, we have hacked that exact obstacle for you with our protein balls!
But First - Why Is Gluten A Problem?
American wheat has been hybridized to be much higher in gluten than ancient grains. We also tend to eat gluten as highly processed flour vs. traditional sourdough bread, as an example. The food supply has changed much faster than we’ve been able to adapt, which has contributed to a rise in gluten sensitivity.
In addition, commercial wheat is sprayed with a toxic herbicide called glyphosate which may contribute to - you guessed it - gluten sensitivity.
For those sensitive, gluten damages the gut lining, causes inflammation, and triggers an overactive immune response throughout the body.
Gluten sensitivity is linked to a host of symptoms and conditions, including:
- Joint pain
- Brain fog
- Headaches and migraines
- Bloating, heartburn, and other digestive symptoms
- Leaky gut or intestinal permeability
- Autoimmune disease
- Cravings and binge eating
In addition, about one in 100 people have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease in the small intestine triggered by gluten. Celiac disease treatment requires strict avoidance from gluten.
How Do I Know If I Have A Gluten Sensitivity?
Many people who are sensitive to gluten actually don’t know it! While your doctor can diagnose celiac disease or a gluten allergy through blood testing or other standardized approaches, non-celiac gluten sensitivity isn’t as straightforward. The immune system reacts in many ways to gluten and it’s challenging to test them all.
The gold standard for determining a gluten sensitivity is to eliminate gluten from the diet for three to six weeks. Then, reintroduce gluten and observe how your body feels. If symptoms reduced without gluten and then reappeared when you ate it again, you might be sensitive to gluten. Working with a dietitian for guidance through an elimination diet is advised.
Note: If you have celiac disease, don’t reintroduce gluten. Be sure to do any celiac testing before eliminating gluten.
Um…What Do I Even Eat On A Gluten-Free Diet?
While so many modern, processed foods contain gluten, many whole food options are naturally gluten-free. These include:
- Meat and fish
- Nuts and seeds
There are also many non-gluten grains to choose from:
In addition, it is much easier to find nutritious, gluten-free options than it was even a few years ago, but you’ll have to be a savvy consumer. Read labels because many gluten-free options are highly processed. Just because it’s gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy or made with high-quality ingredients.
Will I Miss Out on Important Nutrients If I Don’t Eat Gluten?
No! There are no essential nutrients in gluten-containing grains that cannot be found elsewhere in the diet. By including a variety of whole foods each day, you’ll be covered.
How Do I Get Started?
It can feel overwhelming to adopt a gluten-free diet overnight, but if you don’t have celiac disease, you don’t have to. A great place to start is to identify where you are currently eating gluten and begin to experiment with other options.
Here are some ideas:
- Try chickpea pasta, cassava pasta, or making zucchini noodles instead of traditional wheat pasta
- Try various gluten-free crackers and bread options, or learn to make your own
- Practice reading labels to find where gluten might be hidden in your pantry and find or make alternatives
- Identify high quality, gluten-free snacks like Scott’s Protein Balls that you can keep on hand when hunger hits
Experimenting with gluten is an excellent opportunity to tune into your body and discover how you feel when you eat it. With this insight, you can make the best choices for your unique body. Have questions for us about the best way to incorporate our protein balls into your GF diet? Send us a line! Add link to a customer service email We would love to hear from you and help ensure you can make your GF lifestyle work for your health and your pleasure!
Medically reviewed. By Lizzy Swick MS, RDN
Lori Levine is an eternal optimist and after undergoing breast cancer treatment, she learned she had to upgrade her snacks to upgrade her health. She and her husband Scott became accidental entrepreneurs after he lovingly created quality protein balls made from tasty, easily recognizable ingredients that are as convenient as they are healthy and delicious! Even better? 1% of all sales are donated to Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) to help support breast cancer research. #betheend.