What is … Gluten, and is it in all of my food?

Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten may also be found in some cosmetics or dermatological preparations.

Wheat gluten, also called wheat meat, mock duck, gluten meat, or simply gluten, is a food made from gluten, the main protein of wheat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch dissolves, leaving insoluble gluten as an elastic mass which is then cooked before being eaten.
Wheat gluten is an alternative to soybean-based meat substitutes such as tofu. Some types of wheat gluten have a chewy or stringy texture that resembles meat more than other substitutes. Wheat gluten is often used instead of meat in Asian, vegetarian, Buddhist, and macrobiotic cuisines. Simulated duck is a common use for wheat gluten.

Although wheat gluten was first developed in China, it has historically been popular in the cuisines of Japan and other East and Southeast Asian nations. In Asia, it is commonly found on the menus of restaurants catering primarily to Buddhist customers who do not eat meat.

Since the mid-20th century, wheat gluten (generally known by its macrobiotic name, seitan) has been increasingly adopted by vegetarians in Western nations as a meat alternative.

Wheat gluten is also used both as a protein source and binding ingredient in pet foods. Wheat gluten from China adulterated by melamine was blamed as the cause of the 2007 pet food recalls.

A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). A gluten-free diet is used to treat celiac disease where the gluten consumed causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than two million people in the United States, or about 1 in 133 people, have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, including celiac disease.

The one thing you need to watch out for, if you want to follow a gluten-free diet, is that you may be consuming lower levels of certain vitamins and nutrients.

Nutritionist Emma Buckley talks to Harry Smith about Celiac disease and the array of gluten-free foods for good health.

For more info on a Gluten-free diet and what’s allowed, and what’s not … check this link out About a gluten free diet from the Mayo Clinic