Some years back, I was sitting in a restaurant that my friend managed. He was a renowned chef, one of the very best in continental cuisines. I would visit to discuss food and experiment while cooking various dishes with him.
No, that’s not gluten free
One weekend afternoon, a woman and her entourage came in. They were quite well off, considering the place only caters to the premium or affluent. But what struck me was what she asked next: “Do you have any chicken that is gluten free?”
Read more: What on earth is kombucha?
The fact is, fresh chicken doesn't contain any gluten. In fact, all fresh meat, including beef, pork, turkey and seafood, are gluten-free options to add to your diet.
Perhaps what the woman intended to ask was whether the chicken had added ingredients, such as breadcrumbs or gravy, which may have contained gluten.
But it was what it was -- and my friend responded quite calmly that since the chickens were ‘free range’, they were gluten free.
The woman happily had her dish and left a generous tip and review on his site.
Now, to the real topic. Gluten free is NOT a fad. It is not a fashion statement. It is not what people say when they want to feel chic or cool. It is a protein that creates complications in your gut.
So, what is gluten?
Gluten refers to the proteins in cereal grains, such as wheat, barley and rye.
Gluten is found in tissue produced in seeds that are ground to make flour and nourishes plant embryos during germination. Later on, gluten affects the elasticity of dough, acting as a glue to hold the food together, which in turn affects the chewiness of baked products.
Gluten is a mixture of hundreds of distinct proteins within the same family, although it is primarily made up of two different classes of proteins: gliadin, which gives bread the ability to rise during baking; and glutenin, which is responsible for dough's elasticity.
Not all grains contain gluten. Some examples of gluten-free grains are sorghum, millet, brown rice, buckwheat, wild rice, amaranth, quinoa, corn (polenta) and teff. Oats are also gluten-free, but can be contaminated during processing.
So now that we understand what gluten is, how does it create problems?
In some people, gluten causes health problems for those with gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia, dermatitis herpetiformis and wheat allergy.
The most common disorder, coeliac disease, is a chronic, immune-mediated and mainly intestinal problem caused by the ingestion of wheat, barley, rye and derivatives. It occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages.
Gluten-free diets are recommended for people with these types of disorders to help with recovery.
It’s interesting to note that gluten proteins have low nutritional and biological value, and the grains that contain gluten are not essential in the human diet.
However, an unbalanced selection of food and an incorrect choice of gluten-free replacement products may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
What are gluten-free foods?
A gluten-free diet consists of gluten-free foods with a good balance of micro and macro nutrients: meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice, and maize are all appropriate components. Pseudo cereals such as quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat are also healthy alternatives, with biological and nutritional value.
So remember, you do need to be careful. Because if you go into the pretext of having gluten free products without understanding your body needs. It can cause you more harm than good. Always consult with your dietician on what works best for you. Don't be cool here. Be informed.