Gluten has become an increasingly popular issue for consumers as more people are choosing gluten-free diets. But what exactly is gluten and why has it become such a prominent issue in the culinary world?
Gluten is a specific protein composite found in wheat products and other grains. This includes barley, rye, triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), kamut, and spelt. Gluten gives dough and bread some of its distinctive qualities such as elasticity and chewy texture. Gluten also helps dough to rise and keep its shape. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration does not require gluten to be listed on labels because gluten has been classified as generally recognized as safe. However, in 2013 the FDA did establish a definition for gluten-free for voluntary labeling as less than 20 ppm. Gluten can also be found in non-food items including cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological products.
Gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance have become more common in recent years, with an estimated 1 in 100 people worldwide diagnosed with celiac disease, and approximately 2.5 million undiagnosed Americans facing potential long-term health issues.
Celiac disease, also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a digestive autoimmune disorder that can cause significant health problems when someone with the disease consumes gluten. When this occurs, an immune response is triggered in the small intestine causing the formation of antibodies to gluten. These antibodies attack the lining of the small intestine. If left uncontrolled, this reaction can cause inflammation that damages the lining of the small intestine, and can prevent absorption of some nutrients. Symptoms of celiac disease can include unexplained weight loss, numerous gastrointestinal maladies, skin rash, anemia, musculoskeletal problems, growth problems, seizures, ulcers, and more. If uncontrolled, celiac disease can eventually deprive the brain, nervous system, bones, liver, and other organs of vital nutrients including fat, calcium, iron, and folate. There is no known cure for celiac disease but the symptoms can be controlled and complications can be avoided by adhering to a strict gluten-free diet.
The Gluten-Free Diet
The good news is that recently it has become much easier for people with gluten sensitivity to find restaurants, specialty stores, and even sections of traditional grocery stores that offer gluten-free foods. These often include variations of bread, pizza, pasta, and alcoholic beverages. Although many types of wheat and grain are excluded from a gluten-free diet, there are several starches that can be excellent substitutes. These include arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, cornmeal, flax, millet, quinoa, rice, soy, tapioca, and various gluten-free flours. Finding gluten-free recipes can be challenging, and finding gluten-free food that actually tastes good can be even harder. Fortunately, Christophe’s To Go offers dozens of delicious entrées that are gluten-free on our everyday menu. We make it easy to accommodate gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, and other restrictive diets. Visit our stores for clearly labeled gluten-free entrées you’ll love, because giving up gluten doesn’t mean you have to give up great-tasting food.
photo credit:stack of everything bagels [it’s the salt, stupid] via photopin (license)