What even is gluten, and why’s it so bad?

A breakdown

Being gluten free is the new fashion trend of the decade. If it isn’t old Gwyneth Paltrow lecturing us about how “bad” it is for us, it’s numerous food companies bombarding us with clever marketing to make us believe gluten is the spawn of the devil. But nobody seems to know what it actually is

What is it?

Well, it’s nothing to do with your gluteus-maximus, that’s for sure. Gluten is in fact a protein that’s found in different grains, such as wheat and barley. If you ever make a cake, you’ll notice that when the flour is mixed with water, the mixture becomes sticky and stretchy. This stickiness is caused by the gluten reacting in the mix.

Why do some people go gluten-free?

Some people can have a reaction to this gluten. People can become very ill if they have it, with stomach problems, sickness, bloating and anaemia. People with a severe reaction can be diagnosed with coeliac disease, which is when your intestine doesn’t like the gluten you’re eating. If you have the symptoms, it’s important to get checked right away (your doctor will take a sample of your blood to test, and you can usually get the results back in a few days.

In other cases, some people have a less severe reaction to gluten, so cut it out of their diet to prevent them feeling slightly bloated or tired. Or, if you’re like Russell Crowe and going to be the next Gladiator, you may also cut it out of your diet to lose a bit of weight. However, unless you have a severe reaction to gluten or have been told by a medical professional to cut it out of your diet, there isn’t really that much of a need to get rid of all gluten from your diet.

Beer is the anti-Christ and contains gluten

What is it in?

Gluten is found in wheat, rye, spelt and barley grains. In other words, if you’re going gluten free, you can’t have:

  • Beer
  • Bread
  • Biscuits and cakes
  • Barley squash (lemon barley)
  • Malt vinegar
  • Blue cheese
  • Tortilla chips such as Doritos
  • Oats which have been rolled in flour, some sausages.

The list goes on, but luckily many supermarkets stock gluten free versions of different foods.

What isn’t it in?

Literally everything else including:

  • Wine.
  • Cider.
  • Fresh fruit and veg.
  • Meat.
  • Fish.
  • Cheese.
  • Eggs.
  • Chocolate.
  • Some sweets are naturally gluten free.

You can drink as much gluten-free cider as you like…

So why are people so militantly against it?

Some people, in particular celebrity “health experts” such as The Hemsley Sisters and Madeleine Shaw, push the idea that gluten is a real-life Voldemort and should be avoided at all costs. This is because gluten has been linked to weight gain, tiredness and some foods which have gluten in aren’t especially good for you (see cakes/biscuits/beer).

However, it is only really coeliacs, and people who have been told by a health professional to avoid gluten, who have to avoid gluten. The rest of your mates are just going along for the ride.