The sale of gluten free products has more than doubled since 2005 and the gluten free product range looks set for continued expansion. But why are so many of us embarking upon a gluten free diet? Below, we explore the gluten free diet in more detail, outline its main benefits and introduce you to two delicious gluten free recipes for beginners.
What is the gluten free diet?
In essence, the gluten free diet is a diet that excludes foods containing gluten, a protein composite found in products processed from wheat, triticale (a wheat hybrid) barley, oats, spelt, kamut and rye. When combined with water, gluten forms a sticky binder that has become a popular food additive lurking in common supermarket products such as bread, pasta, biscuits, sweets and beer.
The gluten free diet – fighting gluten sensitivity
The gluten free diet is the natural choice for those with a gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance. Gluten sensitivity comes with a variety of unpleasant symptoms including bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhoea, muscular, bone and joint pain and can lead to obesity. The Lancet Medical Journal suggests that gluten intolerance may also be the trigger for a number of chronic illnesses such as certain types of cancer, diabetes, thyroid disorders, neurological diseases and arthritis. Unfortunately gluten sensitivity is becoming increasingly prevalent – according to the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research around 6% of the US population is now gluten sensitive. And it can range from a simple wheat allergy to a full-blown medical condition known as coeliac disease.
The gluten free diet – combatting coeliac disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by an adverse reaction to gluten that can result in intestinal damage and make it difficult for the small intestine to digest food properly. Coeliacs are also often more prone to thyroid disease, osteoporosis, anaemia, weight problems and depression. This debilitating condition is thought to be four times more common than it was just 50 years ago and now affects one in every hundred of us in the UK. Yet this might only be the tip of the iceberg – as there is no routine screening for coeliac disease and it is frequently mistaken for other digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, many of us are totally unaware that we even have the condition and Coeliac UK believes that just 10-15% of all cases are ever identified.
Currently a gluten free diet is the only medically accepted treatment for coeliac disease.
The gluten free diet – additional health benefits
Various A list celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, Rafel Nadal and Bill Clinton have all extolled the benefits of the gluten free diet, such as reduced cholesterol levels, improved digestive health, increased levels of energy and even weight loss. Gluten is predominantly found in carbohydrates – carbohydrates are converted into sugars and stored as fat in our body. As the gluten free diet naturally reduces your intake of carbs, you get to benefit from demonstrable weight loss as well as a reduced risk of obesity related diseases including high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
If you want some inspiration on how to follow a gluten free diet here is a great starter recipe – Raw Courgette Pasta