These days you see a lot of gluten-free products lining store shelves. These new offerings are a response to shoppers’ needs and requests for an increase in quantity and quality of gluten-free products.
So what does “gluten-free” mean? Wheat, and related grains including rye and barley, contain gluten. Gluten is a protein that expands in reaction to heat, providing height and elasticity, and is prevalent in many food products, not just bread.
Gluten is what makes bread rise, but it is also widely used in packaged and prepared foods that might surprise you. Some ketchups, hot dogs, ice cream and dietary supplements can contain wheat. But keep in mind that wheat is a valuable part of a healthy diet, so only people with a true intolerance or allergy need to avoid it. Proper diagnosis by a qualified doctor is essential.
In a true allergy, the body reacts to gluten as if it were a foreign substance and mounts an attack of antibodies. Swelling of the lips, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and wheezing or breathing problems are some of the symptoms. For the allergic, gluten and gluten products must be avoided. These include wheat, rye, barley, other related grains and even oats, which can be cross-contaminated during manufacturing.
Reading food ingredient labels is particularly important to anyone with special dietary needs.
To answer your questions concerning gluten-free diets, Beth Loiselle, dietitian from the good foods market and café’, will present a program on gluten-free diets at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Clark County Extension Office. This free informational program is open to the public.
Please call the Extension Office at 744-4682 to register.
Jennifer Howard is the Clark County Extension Service agent for family and consumer sciences.