Almost every supermarket shelf now seems to offer a Gluten Free variant. The product packaging majors on the fact that it is labelled attractively. So they obviously think this is a key benefit and selling feature.
Why are so many people having problems with wheat? In many ways the question encapsulates the current anxiety around bread and wheat and its gluten content, which has gyrated from a source of sustenance for humanity into a toxic recluse. Come to think of it, gluten which makes up about 75 percent of the proteins in wheat, is contained in one fifth of the foods consumed worldwide; bread, pasta, cereals, processed foods… even soy sauce.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye, oat, and all their species and hybrids (Wikipedia).
What does Gluten do to your body?
In roughly 1% of adults and children, genetics plus gluten combine in ways that we do not completely understand to trigger a condition called celiac disease. This can damage the intestinal lining and lead to serious nutritional and gastrointestinal problems among other issues. For children with celiac disease, gluten is toxic and has to be completely avoided in the diet. This can only be diagnosed when medically tested. Unless there is a diagnosed medical need to exclude gluten from your child’s diet, consuming it is not naturally toxic.
Wheat and the main protein it contains, gluten, has been cited as a cause of weight gain, brain fog, skin rashes, eczema, headaches, tiredness, allergies, gas, intestinal distress, and irritable bowel syndrome amongst others. I know many parents that swear to see improvements in their children after adhering to a gluten-free diet.
But we’ve been eating gluten for centuries, so why is it suddenly an issue for an increasing number of people?
The grain our grandparents ate was very different from what we eat today. Modern grains have a much higher concentration of gluten, thanks to selective breeding to get higher crop yields. Our overuse of antibiotics could also be changing the bacteria in our gut and making it more difficult for us to manage gluten. And the hyper-sanitized environment (think antibacterial everything) may be signalling some people’s immune system to see gluten as an enemy.
To confuse matters, with the increasing popularity of gluten-free products, many gluten-free substitutes are readily available in health shops and supermarkets. However beware as items such as breads and cookies, are actually much higher in fat, sugar and calories than gluten-containing varieties. Gluten free products are either processed foods gone through a chemical gluten extraction process or foods compensated in fat and sugar to improve taste and can in no means compete with natural, wholesome grains.
So the question remains gluten or no gluten in your children’s diets?
15min Mom verdict…
Could the human race have been so wrong about this staple food for so long? Or are the health concerns actually propelled by the powerful branding of the gluten-free trend? Growing bodies and brains require a balanced nutrition. Abstaining from any major food groups and types I strongly believe can lead to eventual intolerance. I do believe that the quality of shelf foods we eat nowadays is questionable and where wheat is concerned, the gluten content and processing involved outweigh the benefits of these foods.
- Let kids be kids and enjoy their pastas and breads. But let’s try to buy the more natural varieties that haven’t been tampered by the big brands that seem to value effective supply chain and inventory management more than actual nutritional content.
- So we say let’s make an effort in buying fresh-baked bread from bakeries as opposed to packaged processed labelled types. Balance it out with spelt, whole wheat, rye and oat varieties – expose your children to everything but KEEP IT BALANCED!
- Consume less of the processed high in fat and sugar breads, cereals and other wheat heavy products.
- Make gluten-free variations of food at home as long as the key ingredients aren’t processed flours or ready made pastas.
- Read labels always! Large prominent branding with labels such as Organic, Natural, Fat free etc. may have other not so healthy chemical additives to compensate and may even have too much salt and sugar to enhance taste.
*WATCH THIS SPACE – 15min Mom will be posting healthy homemade and natural recipes low in processed gluten high in nutritional value.
Fun Gluten-free play dough recipe
- 230g (8oz) of rice flour
- 230g (8oz) corn flour
- 230g (8oz) salt
- 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Food colouring
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan
- Cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring all the time. The mixture is very runny to start with but gradually thickens
- Remove from the heat and knead on a table or large board to remove any lumps
- Roll into a large ball and store in an airtight tub. It will keep for several months.