Gluten is a protein found in grains. Wheat, barley, and rye naturally contain gluten. Therefore, flour made from those grains will have gluten too. Food containing flour is used daily in the human diet—it’s found in bread, pasta, pastries, baked goods, cereals, pancakes, tortillas, and croutons. Gluten is also found in malt, food coloring, soups, and beer.
There’s a large number of food items on the market that contain gluten. People often have to buy alternatives to avoid food with gluten, but they’re not always easy to find. The good news is that we expect to see a greater variety of grain- and gluten-free flours in the future.
Why Does Gluten Cause Issues?
It’s a known fact that gluten doesn’t provide any essential nutrients to the body. But why can it be so harmful?
Gluten shouldn’t cause digestive problems in a healthy individual. However, symptoms of gluten sensitivity can occur suddenly and at any age. Some of the symptoms of gluten intolerance are abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, poor appetite, bloating, a rash, and growth delay in children.
How Many People Are Gluten Intolerant?
It’s estimated that 6–7% of the US population is gluten sensitive, which is about 20 million Americans. Dr. Ford from Christchurch, New Zealand stated it could be 10–30%, counting both sick people and those with no symptoms. Moreover, at least three million people in the US have celiac disease, according to the data from 2019.
The side effect of celiac disease is the damage of the small intestine every time gluten is ingested. Those diagnosed with celiac have to be on a gluten-free diet for the rest of their lives because there’s no cure for the disease other than being on a special diet.
Gluten-Free Market Is on the Rise
More than three million diagnosed and healthy Americans are on a gluten-free diet. It’s estimated that the numbers have tripled since 2009 and will continue to grow. This will lead to the growth of the global gluten-free food market. In 2019, it was estimated at $3.73 billion. By 2025, it’s expected to be worth $6.43 billion.
Gluten-free products that are currently available are gluten-free baby food, pasta, baked goods, meat alternatives, dairy alternatives, desserts, ice creams, condiments, seasonings, etc. These alternatives already cover almost everything you might need for your gluten-free diet, with even more innovations expected to emerge in the food industry.
Side Effects of Going Gluten-Free
For someone who doesn’t have celiac disease, it might be a better option to follow other types of diets. The problem with avoiding foods containing gluten is that it can lead to a nutritional deficiency since those foods have essential nutrients, like iron, calcium, and fiber.
Also, people on a gluten-free diet have a slightly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Moreover, eating whole grains is good for the heart, so cutting them out of your diet may lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Gluten doesn’t have to be an essential part of our diet, even though it’s almost everywhere—any food product made from grain will contain gluten. People are choosing a gluten-free diet for various reasons. Some of them want to lose more weight by reducing or eliminating bread from their diet, some of them have mild symptoms of gluten sensitivity, and some have celiac disease.
Regardless of the individual reason, each year more and more Americans are going gluten-free. It certainly has some benefits, but anyone considering changing their diet completely should plan it carefully.
Although it might seem like a healthier diet just because bread and pasta are out of the picture, it’s going to be more complicated than that. It can be tricky to eat gluten-free without eliminating whole grains, which are beneficial to the human body. This can be solved by consulting a nutritionist to help you eat a balanced diet without potential risks.