The more I talk to people about ridding my diet of gluten, the more I realize that most people have no idea what it is. Let’s clarify.
Gluten is not a food. It’s not something you can identify by taste or pick out from your salad. It’s a protein found in wheat and other types of grains (i.e. barley, rye). In Elisabeth’s words, “Gluten is that sticky, binding substance that gives bread and pastas their elasticity and texture.” Basically, it’s what makes it taste so darn good.
See all those happy foods? Yep, all of those delicious items contain gluten. Of course there are gluten-free versions, but you have to remember since gluten is what helps with texture, the g-free versions often have a different consistency. Gluten is used as both a thickening agent as well as an all-purpose stabilizer (think all-purpose flour) so it’s used in a lot more than what you would think. Remember those random facts I mentioned when I first started this crazy feat? That soy sauce and oatmeal both contain gluten? Well, there’s two explanations.
- A “random” additive. I call it random because it’s not necessary for taste, but rather manufacturers use it to give the item its proper consistency. Soup bases, soy sauce, gravies, and marinades are just a few examples of products to look into before eating.
- Cross-contamination. This is huge and probably the biggest worry factor for people with celiac disease (I’ll cover the difference between gluten-sensitivity and celiac disease in another post). There are plenty of items that are naturally gluten-free (rice, quinoa, corn, buckwheat, fruits, veggies, meat, nuts, eggs) but the second they are prepared or cooked in the same kitchen as a glutenous item, there is a potential for these things to become contaminated.
So if you are concerned about gluten, what can you do?
Start reading labels (duh). Some ingredients are easy to decipher (goodbye wheat, barley and rye), but others are a little more difficult. When in doubt, I literally type in my google search “soba noodle gluten free” and a thousand results populate. There are so many forums out there that you are bound to find an answer. For those living with people eating gluten, here are some tips:
- Stop sharing butters / jams / spreads. Think of all those times you use that knife to spread directly on a piece of bread and stick back into the jar. Yea… that’s contaminating your food.
- Get a new colander / strainer. You know when you pour that huge pot of pasta and you can see that whitish layer of starch left? Yea… that’s contaminating your food.
- Look at your cooking tools aka your spatula and wooden spoons. Do you really think those are 100% clean? Are you positive there aren’t specks of dirt left over? Yea… that’s contaminating your food.
The more I read the more I learn, so pick up a book or send me a question and I can let you know what I’ve learned so far.
How do you avoid eating gluten or getting your food contaminated? Anything you do that helps make sure you stay gfree?