What is Gluten, Anyway?: The Hottest and Most Controversial Food Trend of Our Time

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gluten free breads

You’ve seen it everywhere. Every time you step into a grocery store, you see tons of food products labeled “gluten-free,” and many celebrities have sworn to follow a gluten-free diet to stay healthy. Indeed, it’s one of the hottest trends in the food industry today. But while it has become such a common label, what exactly does it mean? But more importantly, what is “gluten” anyway?

If this phenomenon has intrigued you, whether you’re a health buff or are looking into possible business ventures such as a sandwich store franchise opportunity, it’s important to understand what exactly this component is and why it has become so controversial.

The Etymology

In Latin, the word gluten means “glue” and that’s exactly what this substance truly is: a combination of two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, both stuck together like glue. This is commonly found in wheat, barley, and rye, making it a very common ingredient in many food products, such as bread, bagels, pizza, and other types of pasta. So, you may be thinking that a gluten-free diet means you can’t have any of these, right? While it’s true that many of your favorite grocery store products contain gluten, there are many options that are equally as delicious but not as bad for the health.

The Health Issue

According to research, the gluten-free market is worth $4.2 billion, and that’s in the U.S. alone. As many adults have switched to a healthier option, about 30 percent are completely avoiding or reducing their consumption of dietary gluten. This is for their current medical conditions or they just want a quick way to lose weight in a healthier manner.

The rise of the gluten-free diet is more than just a trend, however. There are many health problems related to gluten, making it a major public health issue. For example, many people who have been recommended by their physicians to adopt a gluten-free diet have been diagnosed with a serious genetically-based autoimmune disorder known as celiac disease.

When a person with this condition consumes gluten, the immune system gets triggered, which in turn, damages the small intestine’s lining. Once the lining of the small intestine gets damaged due to this consumption, the body can no longer absorb nutrients properly. However, when a person adopts a gluten-free diet, the intestine is capable of healing once again. Other than celiac disease, gluten consumption may also cause gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, and some other diseases.

The Alternatives

ingredients

There is a long list of grains that are known to be gluten-free, such as corn, rice, teff, wild rice, sorghum, buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa. Many of these names may sound exotic and unfamiliar, but they’re great alternatives for a healthier, gluten-free diet.

If you’ve never tried dining at a restaurant that offers Ethiopian food, then you may have not heard of teff. A staple Ethiopian grain, this ingredient is used to create a spongy flatbread known as injera. Quinoa, on the other hand, may be a bit more familiar. The preparation is as simple as cooking rice. With its very mild taste, many people in the early stages of their gluten-free diet enjoy this alternative. Even if you don’t have any of the conditions associated with gluten, consider switching to this diet for healthier food choices.