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What is Gluten And Should You Avoid It?

What is Gluten And Should You Avoid It?

Gluten, which is found in some grains, is a complex mixture of hundreds of different proteins. It acts like a glue and is responsible for structure, and is what gives many gluten containing foods such as bread their soft and chewy texture - thank you, gluten!

What Foods Contain Gluten?

Gluten is found in grains such as:

  • Wheat 
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Spelt 

Gluten is therefore found in any foods that contain these grains such as breads, pasta, cereal, beer, soy sauce, and even in sauces and gravies! Who knew?!

It is also found in oats, however oats are actually naturally gluten free - the gluten found in oats is normally a result of contamination by gluten containing grains during harvest!

Is Gluten Unhealthy?

Gluten is not inherently unhealthy, foods containing gluten, such as whole wheat bread, contain a variety of essential vitamins and minerals as well as fibre, and can therefore be beneficial for health! 

It is often believed that gluten free foods are healthier than gluten containing foods, but that is not necessarily the case. There are risks to gluten free diets as well, as it involves cutting certain foods out of your diet which can make it more challenging to meet your nutritional needs. Gluten free foods are often ultra processed in attempts to give them the same textures and flavours of our beloved gluten containing foods. Besides, there is not a lot of evidence to support the claim that gluten free diets lead to any sort of positive health outcomes in healthy individuals.

Should I Cut Gluten Out Of My Diet?

Well that depends - do you have a gluten intolerance? There are a few different types of gluten intolerance; Gluten sensitivity is characterized by symptoms that occur after gluten ingestion and disappear with gluten withdrawal. Gluten ingestion in individuals who are intolerant to gluten can cause IBS-like symptoms as well as other symptoms such as nausea, eczema, tiredness, weight loss, depression and more. 

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder where certain peptides found in the gluten protein trigger an immune response, which leads to the immune system attacking the cells of the small intestine. This reaction can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms as well as malabsorption which can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

Some people also suffer from wheat allergies, however this is an intolerance to wheat and not necessarily gluten on its own.

Gluten Free Foods

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no cure for gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease, and the only treatment is to avoid symptoms by consuming a gluten free diet. However, there are plenty of gluten free flour alternatives such as buckwheat, quinoa, rice, millet… And you can even get pasta and noodles made from chickpeas, lentils or edamame beans! Tamari is a gluten free version of soy sauce, and gluten free beer exists - phew! 

Admittedly, it is difficult to replace gluten in baked goods and other products, therefore gluten free products are often ultra processed in attempts to mimic the texture of gluten containing foods (and they still won’t taste exactly the same as the real thing!) 

If you have to cut gluten out of your diet, opt for whole food options and cook from scratch where you can, this can help reduce your chances of ingesting gluten contaminated foods, but will also help reduce your intake of ultra processed foods. So you can improve your health whilst also reducing your chances of any side effects of gluten ingestion!


Gluten is found in many foods we consume on the regular, and some people have adverse reactions when they consume it! Gluten containing foods can provide essential vitamins and minerals, and gluten itself is not inherently unhealthy, whereas gluten free products can be ultra processed and lacking in nutrition. The bottom line is that you do not have to cut gluten out of your diet unless you have an intolerance or allergy, and if you suspect you are, an allergen or intolerance test with your GP will let you know! 

Do you follow a gluten free diet? Let us know in the comments below!
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