For a very long time, wheat went hand-in-hand with good health. In fact, at one time it was the key staple in many people’s diet.
But a growing number of consumers are now associating gluten-free foods with higher energy levels and weight loss. A recent study even reported that 78% of people who buy gluten-free products claim to do so for health reasons.
The discovery of celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, has undoubtedly contributed in large part to this trend. We now also have a better understanding of how this autoimmune disease works. When those who suffer from celiac disease eat food containing gluten, their immune system turns against their body, rather than defending it. This chronic intestinal disease affects approximately 1% of the population (which amounts to roughly 300,000 people in Canada). However, many people can have the condition and not even know it. Unfortunately, there is no cure for celiac disease; the only treatment is to adopt a strict gluten-free diet for life.
Why exactly do we put gluten in some food?
Gluten is a binder. Among other things, it greatly improves the texture of baked goods and pastries. Gluten is what makes a baguette crunchy and white bread soft and spongy.
Gluten can be found in almost everything and is often well hidden, making it difficult to avoid. Look for things like wheat, barley, oats, malt, starch, spelt, rye or breadcrumbs in the list of ingredients. All contain gluten.
It used to be that people could just steer clear of these simple grains, but now they are being added to a wide range of processed foods — some of which you’d never suspect. People who are gluten intolerant need to be cautious when consuming the following types of foods and beverages:
- Soups, broths
- Sausages and deli meats
- Sauces and marinades
- Soy sauce
- Mock seafood
- Flavoured teas and coffees
- Candies and chocolate