Gluten free diets are becoming much more commonplace than ever. Now, avoiding gluten isn't only for people who suffer from gluten intolerance such as coeliacs, but sportspeople like Andy Murray are choosing to cut gluten out of their diet. Nutritionist Elspeth Waters explains what gluten is, and why people choose to avoid it.
WHAT IS GLUTEN?
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. People who are diagnosed with coeliac disease must avoid it because it causes damage to their gut lining. Also, many people who have chronic digestive concerns have shown sensitivity to foods that contain gluten and have claimed to feel better when avoiding them.
ON THE RISE
The rise in those claiming to suffer gluten intolerance may in part be attributed to the change in farming methods. Commercial grains have been cultivated to be much higher in gluten than they would be naturally, as gluten, being protein, makes the grains grow much bigger, increasing farmers' yields. As a result we're being exposed to more gluten than ever.
WHAT TO AVOID
Unfortunately for gluten-dodgers, it is not as easy as just avoiding grains, cereals and flours. Many food manufacturers sneak gluten into processed foods under various guises: ales, lagers, liquorice sweets, artificial flavourings, soy sauce, some stock cubes, gravies, marinades, processed meats, Worcestershire sauce, spice mixes, soups and more. In addition, cross-contamination may occur in the grain industry so your bag of rice or quinoa might accidentally contain a few molecules of wheat or barley.
READ THE INGREDIENTS
If you're avoiding gluten, make sure to read the ingredients on packet and get to know the language. Once you familiarise yourself with it, you'll be able to spot products containing gluten in no time.
Look out for the following ingredients on packet: Barley malt, wheat bran, wheat germ, Bulgur wheat, semolina, couscous, pearl barley, wheat berries, durum wheat, malted milk, malt vinegar, seitan, graham flour, einkorn, Emmer, kamut, spelt, triticale.
If you want to pursue a gluten free diet, the most effective way is to make your own grain-free alternatives from scratch. Bake using suitable flour like almond, chickpea and coconut and cook from scratch where possible.
For more gluten free dinner inspiration, see our favourite gluten free recipes "favourite gluten free recipes").
Sweet tooth? See our top gluten free cakes.