What is Gluten? And should I be worried?

Author: Kelly Lehmann  •  Date: January 19, 2019  •  Appears in: Community, News, Recipe

What is Gluten? And should I be worried?

You may have seen the Jimmy Kimmel Video that went viral, where random people who were on Gluten free diets were asked 'What is Gluten?'. Surprisingly the right answer was given by...well watch the video below. But have you wondered, 'What is Gluten?'. And should you be avoiding it.  Kelly Lehmann offers up some answers and tips.

Gluten is a combination of the two proteins found in wheat and related grains (barley, spelt, kamut, and rye).  Gluten is what gives bread its rise and pizza dough its stretch.  It is also used as a thickener or a binder in processed foods.

For the 1% of the population with celiac disease, gluten causes pain, gas, cramping, bloating, diarrhea and damage to the intestines, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies like anemia. There is also non-celiac gluten sensitivity which causes similar symptoms without damage to the intestine. In these cases, giving up gluten is the only way to manage the condition. For the rest of the population, giving up gluten likely isn’t necessary, but if done properly can be a very healthy way to eat.  Most of us can benefit from limiting our intake of refined flour and other processed foods.

If you’re interested in trying a gluten free diet, follow these five tips.

  1. If you suspect you have celiac disease, talk to your doctor about getting tested before going gluten free. If you give up gluten, your test may produce a false negative.
  2. Replace gluten containing foods with whole grains and vegetables. Naturally gluten free grains include quinoa, brown rice, teff, amaranth, buckwheat and millet. Starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes can also make a good substitute.
  3. Avoid products claiming to be healthy simply because they are gluten free. Gluten free cookies, cake mixes, pastas, crackers etc. are great for those with celiac disease looking for foods that are convenient and familiar. For those giving up gluten to lose weight, focus on whole foods that are naturally gluten free.
  4. For any diet, the focus should be on increasing your intake of vegetables. Half of every meal should come from vegetables like kale, spinach and other leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, squash, beets, etc. Aim for variety and colour.
  5. Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, don’t become overly concerned with avoiding all gluten. If you focus on whole foods, avoid processed foods and increase your intake of vegetables, your diet will naturally become lower in gluten and more nutrient dense. 

Kelly Lehmann


Kelly is a Registered Dietitian in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She does consultations both in person locally, and online across the country - www.okanaganrd.com. She blogs about food, cooking, family, fitness and balancing it all (as best as I can!) - www.okanaganrd.blogspot.ca.
Read more by Kelly Lehmann

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