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What's The Deal With Going Gluten-Free?

You may be wondering about just what a "gluten- free" diet is for many reasons. Maybe you were recently diagnosed  with celiac disease, or maybe your child's classmate can't enjoy sweets that include gluten. You may have noticed restaurant menu selections marked "gluten-free" or all the foods in grocery stores that sport gluten-free labels. So what exactly is a gluten-free diet?

A gluten-free diet is one that does NOT include the grains wheat, barley, rye, or hybrids of these grains. This includes all varieties and forms of these grains, such as spelt (a type of wheat) and malt (made from barley).

A gluten-free diet is called gluten-free because the grains that must be avoided all contain a protein called gluten.

Even if you are allergic to gluten, or just want to try living without it, you don't have to give up your favorites.

I tell many of my clients that they can still enjoy breads, pastas, and pizza.

While it is true that most of these products in regular grocery stores contain gluten, there are plenty of gluten-free options available. As you may have noticed perusing the aisles of natural food stores, there are plenty of breads, pastas, breakfast cereals, and other products labeled "gluten-free". There is also an abundance of grains, flours, and other cooking ingredients to choose from.

Most people who follow a strict gluten-free diet these days have celiac disease, a serious genetically-based auto-immune disease. When a person with celiac disease ingests gluten, it triggers an immune system reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine. When the lining of the small intestine is damaged, nutrients can not be properly absorbed. Once gluten is completely removed from the diet, the intestine is able to heal.

Whether or not you or a family member have to follow a gluten-free diet, you may still want to try some of the gluten-free grains and goodies you see in stores. For a change, consider picking up a box of quinoa the next time you are in the grocery store. If you've never heard of it or are unsure of how you should cook it, preparation instructions are included on the box. Another options is gluten-free burgers, which can be just as delicious and filling when you don't eat them on the usual buns.

Happy gluten-free eating and bon appetit!

Executive Chef Ly

Chef Ly, inCity Magazine