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Monday, February 29, 2016

Gluten: Friend or Foe

Gluten free has been a booming trend lately, but what is this “gluten” that is making its way out of every American’s diet?

I found myself asking that same question when my sister discovered she had a thyroid disease. Due to the complications of the disease, she had to avoid eating foods that contained gluten. The months leading up to the removal of her thyroid, my family and I had to become more aware of what foods contained gluten and learn more about this key ingredient of wheat.

Webster Dictionary states that gluten is a “substance present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough.” Basically my sister could not eat any grain or wheat products, unless they were gluten free. After her thyroid was removed, she was free to go back to her normal diet and she could once again eat all her favorite cereals.

My sister’s illness made me more aware of what was happening in the gluten free trend. While stocking shelves in the grocery store where I worked, I noticed things that had “gluten free” labels. What confused me the most was that some of these foods wouldn’t have gluten in them in the first place, such as strawberries. And later, I came to college, where I lived with many girls who ate gluten free diets; some girls have Celiac disease, others are very allergic to gluten, and some just choose to eat gluten free foods. I found myself wondering what was so harmful about gluten, so I did some research.

I found that choosing to eat a gluten free diet can actually be dangerous if not done carefully. Foods that contain gluten are a huge source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This is when I decided that gluten isn’t a terrifying entity that is ruining the health of Americans, as some articles will lead you to believe. While it’s okay to choose to eat gluten free, for whatever reason, it’s important to be knowledgeable. The Scientific American tells us that before we go gluten free, we should be checked out by a physician and make sure to replace gluten-containing foods with other foods that are naturally gluten free and contain the nutrients that your body needs.

However, gluten isn’t detrimental to your health if you don’t have a gluten intolerance. In fact, gluten-rich foods are a fantastic source of nutrients that keep you healthy. So before you go gluten free, make sure that you’re informed and stay healthy!  

Your bread-loving friend, Danielle.

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