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GLUTEN-FREE IS FOR REAL

Today, the need for a gluten-free diet is accepted as a viable medical condition. Several million people now live every day with a gluten-free lifestyle. Compared to several years ago there is now a wonderful array of ready-made foods, mixes, and ingredients from retail stores and online vendors and many restaurants now serve gluten-free dishes.

Leading universities and clinics have established celiac research centers. In addition, we have national gluten-free associations, gluten-free magazines, and the American Celiac Disease Alliance--comprised of associations, companies, and individuals who present a unified voice to the government, the food industry, and the public on various issues, including food labeling.

As a result, we have the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which has required manufacturers to identify the eight major food allergens, including wheat, on any food manufactured since January 1, 2006. And, by late 2008, manufacturers will have official gluten-free standards to guide them. But just what is this mysterious thing called gluten?

Keep reading ...

WHAT IS GLUTEN?

Most people can easily go through life never knowing-or caring-about gluten. For those who can't eat it, however, it's foremost in our minds. But just what is it? Gluten is that mysterious protein that food experts talk about in terms of baking. For example, gluten provides wonderful elasticity in bread dough, but it can toughen pie crusts and biscuits if you handle the dough too much.

From a scientific standpoint, gluten is actually a storage protein of wheat. For people with celiac disease it is the gliadin fraction of gluten in particular that is problematic. For those who are sensitive to wheat but don't have celiac disease, there may be other proteins in gluten, such as gliadin, that affect us but we don't know which proteins are actually the culprits.

Other grains have proteins that chemically resemble gluten. Barley contains secalins, and rye contains hordeins. Other members of this botanical tribe include spelt, kamut, and triticale, and that's why you see all of these grains-wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and triticale-on the "do not eat" list for gluten-free individuals.

Oats may appear on this list because of the possibility that they are contaminated by wheat, not because they inherently contain gluten. There are now pure, uncontaminated gluten-free oats on the market that, according to Dr. Peter Green, a leading gastroenterologist at Columbia University, can be tolerated by over 98 percent of those with celiac disease.

So, when you see recipes that contain oats you must use these special oats.

For more information about gluten-free oats, go to the manufacturers' websites: www.bobsredmill.com/, www.creamhillestates.com/www.glutenfreeoats.com, www.giftsofnature.net, and www.onlyoats.com/.

READ FOOD LABELS EVERY TIME YOU SHOP

The key to successful living without gluten is to read labels on everything. Gluten is in many products, but it doesn't always appear as "gluten." It is often listed as all-purpose flour, unbleached flour, bread flour, cake flour, whole-wheat flour, graham flour, farina, semolina, bulgur, or durum-all of which indicate the presence of wheat and, therefore, gluten. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that wheat-containing foods must list the word "wheat" on the ingredient label.

Gluten is present in other well-known grains such as barley, rye, and spelt. But it's also in lesser known grains like triticale, kamut, einkorn, and farro. They are still part of the wheat family and contain gluten. By law, the label doesn't have to say "wheat" if the food contains these wheat-related grains, but when those ingredients are used they are usually named in the ingredient list, so you'll know that particular food contains gluten.

You should carefully read the labels of everything you buy, each time you buy it-even if you've bought the item many times before, are familiar with the manufacturer, and have confidence in that company. Manufacturers might change their ingredients or their procedures, and foods that you thought were safe in the past might suddenly contain gluten.

Obvious Sources of Gluten

 Bagels  Pastries
 Breads  Tortillas
 Cakes  Waffles
 Cereals  Wheat and related grains:
 Cookies  - Barley
 Crackers  - Rye
 Muffins  - Spelt
 Pancakes  - Kamut
 Pastas

 

Surprising Sources of Gluten

Boullions  Malt Vinegar
 Broths  Salad Dressings
 Deli Meats  Seasonings
 Imitation Seafoods  Soup & Soup Mixes
 Licorice Candy  Tea

 

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