Diets are a popular thing in the United States. People diet to lose weight, to improve their health, and to feel better. One of the latest diets to gain popularity is the gluten-free diet. Celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow embraces a gluten-free diet, new bride Chelsea Clinton had a gluten free wedding cake when she was recently married, and more and more gluten-free products are showing up in grocery stores.
Gluten is the protein part of grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. Some people cannot tolerate gluten as it causes inflammation in the small intestine leading to symptoms such as mild weakness, diarrhea, bone pain, weight loss, bloating, abdominal cramps, vitamin deficiencies, and malnutrition. These people have a genetic disorder known as celiac disease, or gluten intolerance. Studies have shown that people with celiac disease who continue to eat gluten, have a 40 to 100 percent greater chance of developing gastrointestinal cancer than those without the condition. By eating a gluten-free diet, people with celiac disease allow the intestinal lining to heal.
Celiac disease is genetically determined. Close relatives of individuals who have the disease are more likely to develop gluten intolerance than the normal population. Because some of the symptoms of gluten intolerance can be mild, about 90 percent of people who have the disease are unaware of their condition. A blood test can help physicians diagnose celiac disease.
Following a gluten-free diet can be difficult. Wheat, rye, and barley need to be completely avoided, but many foods are prepared with these grains. A person following a gluten-free diet should avoid all common breads and pastas, many convenience foods, soups and sauces thickened using wheat, custards, gravies, soy sauce, and flours made from wheat, rye, or barley. When preparing meals, the focus should be on fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, fish, and poultry.
Baking is sometimes difficult since gluten-free flour does not have the same qualities of flours containing gluten. It is necessary to combine several gluten-free flours, starches, and gums to replicate the qualities of regular flour. Even the method of preparing the dough will be different. Gluten-free breads do not require kneading, rising, and shaping. The process is faster, just mixing, like cake batter, and pouring into pans.
People following a gluten-free diet need to make sure they are getting sufficient nutrients in their diet which would normally come from products containing gluten. Many gluten-free products are not fortified and enriched. They may be low in nutrients such as folate, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and fiber. Adding oats, brown rice, and quinoa to a gluten-free diet will significantly increase the amounts of protein, iron, calcium, and fiber consumed.