what is gluten?

I was at a birthday party for one of Lucy's friends (My youngest babe) a few weeks ago. A group of Moms started talking about healthy living and making good food choices for our kids. Of course when the conversation door opens for me, I tend to go a little crazy. Speaking with them, I realized many of them didn't know what gluten is. So, I'm going to give you some information about this lifestyle that I love and has become central to how I nourish my family.

What is gluten? In simplest terms, it is a protein found in many grains. Some of these grains include durum, spelt, farina, farro, kamut, wheat, rye and barley. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.

So is gluten bad for you? Not necessarily. There are people who have something called Celiac Disease. This disease really only affects a small portion of the population. When they consume something that contains gluten, it triggers an immune response that damages the intestines, preventing them from being able to absorb vital nutrients.

Another condition that affects a greater percentage of the population is gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy. In these people, when consuming gluten it can cause bloating, stomach pain, tiredness and depression.

Both of these diagnosis are controversial among some doctors, but can be very real for some people. If you have any of the symptoms stated above, it may be a good idea to try to eliminate gluten from your diet for a period of time and see how your body responds.

Sometimes it is not the fact that a person is consuming gluten but that they are eating a large amount of processed foods on a daily basis. Generations ago, our wheat was grown using more conscious methods of farming. Pesticides and synthetic fertilizers were not the norm and GMO crops were not invading all of our food sources. 

So now that you have some information about gluten, what will you eat if you are going to try a gluten free lifestyle? I'll first say that the goal is to become more health conscious. Trying to replace all of the breads and baked goods you may be eating may not be the best way to nourish your body. Grains in general can cause inflammation so consume in moderation. Remember all fruits and vegetables do not contain gluten so first focus on the foods that are naturally gluten free. Nuts and seeds are great ways to feel full while avoiding gluten and there are many tricks so that you will not feel deprived. 

Try giving gluten free 30 days! 30 days to give 100% to No Gluten and see how you feel. Be aware of your body and any changes you sense and don't cheat. It's all in for this one. Don't forget that all of my recipes are made without gluten and there are hundreds of great blogs out there to give you ideas for breakfast, lunch or dinner.