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Understanding Gluten Foods and Gluten Free Diets

posted by Fitness Focus    |   December 21, 2012 10:11

A very common term that you might have heard recently is "gluten-free diet".  It is a relatively new term, meaning a diet that is structured around excluding foods that contain gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), rye, malts and barley. It is commonly added to foods in the processing phase in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing, and thickening agent. Gluten free diets are the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease, the related condition dermatitis herpetiformis, and wheat allergy.

Gluten free eating might also exclude oats. Medical Advisors are divided on whether to exclude oats or not; it is questionable as to whether they are an actual allergen to celiac disease sufferers or whether it is a matte rof the oats becoming cross-contaminated in milling facilities or in transport by other allergens. Contamination is even possible when oats are grown in rotation with wheat when wheat seeds from the previous harvest sprout up the next season in the oat field and are harvested along with the oats.  A growing body of evidence suggests that a majority of people with celiac disease that follow a gluten-free diet can safely consume oats in small, conservative amounts.

The term gluten free is typically used to indicate a seemingly harmless level of the gluten protein rather than a complete absence of it. The precise level that gluten is harmless for anyone with celiac disease is unknown as well as controversial.  In 2008, a systematic review tentatively conducted and concluded that consuming less than 10mg of gluten for celiac in one day is not likely to cause any physiological abnormalities, as it is still a relatively newly discovered disease few reliable studies had been conducted.

There are however, certain starches and grains that are considered to be acceptable that can be included in a gluten-free diet. The most frequently used are rice, corn and corn starch, potatoes, quinoa, and tapioca (derived from cassava). Other grains and starch sources generally considered suitable for gluten-free diets include amaranth, arrowroot, millet, montina, lupin, sorghum (jowar), taro, teff, chia seed, and yam. Sometimes various types of bean, soybean, and nut flours are used in gluten-free products to add protein and dietary fiber.

An unrecognized substitution is Almond flour.  Almond Flour is a conciderably low-carbohydrate alternative to flour, it also has a low glycemic index. Although the name suggests otherwise, buckwheat isn't related to regular wheat. Buckwheat, for the most part, is generally acceptable for gluten-free diets.  Commercial buckwheat products on the other hand are mixtures of wheat flour and buckwheat flours, and therefore can't be included in a gluten-free diet. Gram flour, not to be confused with Graham flour, is derived from chickpeas, is also gluten-free.  Graham flour is not gluten-free as it is made from wheat.  With such similar names, this is why it is important to thoroughly read your food labels. Gluten is used in foods in some very unexpected ways; sometimes added as a stabilizing agent or thickener in products that need to maintain consistency like ice-cream and ketchup.

People that must maintain a completely gluten-free diet must also be aware of the ingredients of certain over-the-counter or prescription medications and vitamins.  Again, check for a gluten free symbol or the words "gluten free" near the product information on the back of bottle. Women should be aware that cosmetics such as lipstick, lip balms, and lip gloss may contain gluten.  Even these trace amounts can cause gluten related reactions, so these products should be investigated before use.

Cross-contamination issues

Restaurants have started recognizing the growing trend among patrons and now offer specific gluten-free menus. People who are gluten-sensitive must always be aware that there are a variety of cooking procedures used in kitchens and grills that increase the likelihood of cross contamination between foods. This especially is the case in buffets where utensils typically are used in different food bowls by customers.

Being Aware of Gluten Free Labels

posted by Fitness Focus    |   December 12, 2012 02:15

The Accuracy of Gluten Free Labels

The legal term of the phrase "gluten free" does vary from country to country, however current research is suggesting for people with celiac disease the maximum safe level of gluten in a finished product is probably less than 200 parts per million and possibly as little as 20 parts per million.

Certain standards only allow the "gluten-free" label to be used on foods with less than 5 parts per million of gluten, 5 parts per million being the smallest percentage that we are currently able to detect. The following ingredients are typical ingredients found in food that does contain gluten:
  • Wheat Flour contains 80,000ppm
  • Wheat Starch contains 200ppm
  • Maltodextrin, Dextrin, Glucose Syrup all contain 5ppm
  • Caramel Color has varying amounts of gluten depending on the processing method.  It can still affect those with celiac and gluten intolerance.

Wheat flour contains almost 12% gluten; such a small number is still a very significant amount.  Even the tiniest trace of wheat flour can cross-contaminate a product that is gluten-free.  A certain degree of care must always be taken to avoid cross-contamination of foods. 

Gluten Free Bread- Fitness FocusGluten-free diets rule out many of the normal foods that we are all used to eating on a regular basis.  The foods in question span from ordinary breads and pastas to many convenience foods in our diets such as crackers, chips and cookies.  Gluten rich foods are food that also use certain thickeners such as gravies, soups, and sauces thickened with rye, barley, wheat or other flour. Gluten hides in many of our favorite day to day food choices. More and more these days various gluten-free bakery and pasta products can be found in specialty retailers.  Large chain grocers are now dedicating sections of their shelf space to gluten-free pruoucts.  Gluten-free foods tend to cost more than non-gluten-free foods, due to the higher cost of production and contamination prevention.

Other unexpected sources of gluten are non-foodstuffs such as certain medications as well as vitamin supplements, mainly the ones available in tablet form, may contain gluten as a binding agent. People with gluten intolerances might require specialist compounding of their medication.  There are also vitamins available without gluten, the package or label will have symbols indicating so, you may also see after any exclaimers the words "gluten free".

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