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What is “Gluten” Anyway?

Lately it seems like everywhere I go I hear the term “gluten-free”. Many restaurants and most grocery stores carry gluten-free meals or products of some sort. I just assumed it was only  for those with Celiac disease, a serious gluten intolerance, and moved on. It wasn’t until my mother-in-law discovered that her dog had a gluten allergy that I realized what a big issue this is. In fact, she found that while she does not have Celiac disease, she is sensitive to gluten as well. She has changed her diet and started a blog chronically her journey, My Gluten Free Canine and Me.

So I had to ask, what is gluten anyway? I thought it was wheat, so why is there a need for gluten-free ice cream?! Well, gluten refers to the protein in some grains (wheat, barley, rye) that gives dough its elasticity and creates structure and texture in bread. Gluten also gives bread its absorbent property. These characteristics are desired in vegetarian imitation meats (“mock chicken”, etc.) in which wheat gluten is often a primary ingredient. In other unlikely items, such as sauces, condiments, and even ice cream, gluten can be used as a stabilizer. The FDA considers gluten to be “generally recognized as safe” as a food additive, but some disagree.

What do you think? Are you concerned about gluten as a food additive?

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