So, What is Gluten Free?

Have you ever wondered what is gluten free, what isn't, and how this knowledge can benefit you? Is eating gluten free hard to do? Here's a good starting point.

To help us know "what is gluten free", we first need to know what gluten is. One dictionary definition is "a substance present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. A mixture of two proteins, it causes illness in people with celiac disease. It's the protein part of wheat, spelt, kamut, barley, rye and other related grains.

So anything that does not contain gluten is considered gluten free. Sounds simple enough, but can sometimes be difficult to determine.

For instance, you can't always go by the name of a grain. You might think that the grain called buckwheat would be off limits for someone on a gluten free diet. However, pure buckwheat is not actually related to wheat and is considered OK for gluten free diets. 

A Word of Caution 

Be very careful, though, about purchasing any products that have buckwheat in the name on the package. I have found that lots of them are mixed with flours that have gluten in them.

buckwheat pancake mix

I use their buckwheat pancake mix to make waffles and put pure maple syrup on them. This mix is gluten free and tastes great. Best waffles I've ever had. Good with fresh blueberries on top also. 

Is eating gluten free hard to do? Not really, if you don't eat out a lot. Most restaurants don't have too many wheat free options, so if you don't do most of your own cooking, it will be somewhat of a challenge.

If you are like me and like to cook for yourself, then it's easy to control. You just substitute the gluten free products for the old ones. Some things are easier than others. Like gluten free pasta. I just use the brown rice versions from someone like De Boles.

De Boles pasta

They not only taste good, but are much better for you than the white flour versions. You can even find these at Walmart now.

If I were to try to cover all you need to know about what is gluten free, you would fall asleep reading it. There is a ton of information out there about it. You might want to start by reading the Wikipedia article on Gluten Free Diet. It has a some good info on the subject.

Then go from there and do a little more research. I'm glad I did. I sure feel a whole lot better than I used to.

Happy Eating! 

Mitch Ferguson, July 2009 

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