What Is Gluten?

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When comedian Jimmy Kimmel sent a camera crew to ask people who ate gluten-free diets what, exactly, gluten is, responses ranged from “It’s like a grain…right?” to “wheat” that should be avoided because “it makes you fat.”

“Here in L.A., it’s comparable to Satanism,” Kimmel riffed.

Actually, gluten is a combination of two proteins — and, as those who eat gluten-free diets do know, it is found primarily in wheat. The proteins (gliadin and glutenin) are also found in rye, barley, spelt, triticale, kamut, farro, and einkorn.

Gluten-free: Is It a Fad, Or a Healthy Diet?

Gluten feeds plant embryos. If you bake wheat bread, you may buy vital wheat gluten at the grocery store: It gives wheat bread dough its elasticity, and gives wheat bread its traditional texture.

Some people avoid gluten because they have Celiac disease or because they have a lesser sensitivity that can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, and other symptoms. But most Americans who eat gluten-free diets do so because they think it will make them healthier or thinner.

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While many nutritionists don’t advocate restricting diet unless necessary, they encourage people who do try it to choose naturally gluten-free foods, like fruits and vegetables. Replacing processed foods with gluten-free processed foods probably won’t give you any sort of health boost. Or help you lose weight.

When you embark on a gluten-free diet, nutritionists recommend making sure you get enough iron, calcium, B-vitamins, vitamin D, and fiber.

Photo: iStockPhoto

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