What is gluten-free? – Tyler Morning Telegraph

Pick any aisle in your local grocery store and you will see many packages with “gluten-free” labels.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and their various forms, such as triticale. It gives structure to baked goods and can be used for a thickening agent or flavor enhancer.

Who should avoid eating gluten? Most people do not have a problem with gluten. However, for some people, eating foods with gluten can make eating foods a little less pleasant. People who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, a gluten sensitivity, or in some cases people who have severe wheat allergies should choose foods labeled “gluten-free.” A 100% gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease today.

Celiac disease is a condition in which gluten damages the lining in the small intestine and keeps certain foods from being used for food. The disease is diagnosed by a medical professional using a blood test and intestinal biopsy.

What types of foods should a person who cannot eat gluten choose?

• All plain meat, poultry, fish and eggs (does not include breading or gravies)

• Milk, butter, margarine, cheese and plain yogurt

• Fruits and vegetables

• Legumes and nuts

• Corn and rice

• Gluten-free oats (oats not processed or in contact with gluten-containing foods), hominy and buckwheat oats are naturally gluten free. However, they can be contaminated with gluten if they are processed and distributed with other grains that contain gluten. Always check the ingredients label for information on whether or not a food contains gluten.

Many people believe not eating foods with gluten is a healthier option. The fact is many foods that are gluten free are not enriched with essential vitamins and minerals as other gluten-containing foods. Following a healthy eating pattern, which includes reducing foods high in saturated, trans fat, sodium and added sugar is the best option for a healthier you.

Bottom line, people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and those with severe wheat allergies should not eat foods made with gluten. If you think you might have one of these conditions, speak with your doctor before removing foods containing gluten.

For more information on health and wellness, contact Claudann Jones, Smith County Extension agent for family and community health at 903-590-2980 or email at cmjones@ag.tamu.edu.