What The Heck Is Gluten? - Eat Simply Organic
What is gluten? Itís a kind of protein found in most grains like barley, wheat and rye. Most breads, for example, contain gluten. There are several grains that do not contain gluten, including corn, wild rice, quinoa, oats, millet and amaranth.
The most common type of gluten encountered in the American diet comes from wheat flour. Much of the gluten can be removed from wheat flour if desired, but not all of it, no matter what you do. This is especially important, for example, because today, many Americans are increasingly developing gluten allergies, including a very serious digestive disorder called celiac disease. Gluten-free diets are also increasingly touted for their benefit to children with autism, for example.
What does gluten do in bread?
Assuming you can have gluten and are not allergic to it, though, itís very nutritious. Itís very high in protein and very good for you, and it gives bread its chewy texture. It also keeps the gases that are released during fermentation when bread is made (during the rising process) so that it becomes light and fluffy before itís baked. Because itís also very elastic, it helps keep its shape so that bread can actually be formed into loaf shapes and isnít simply a gluey lump.
Wheat products are used in many different forms and are very versatile, and the gluten in flour is what helps make it so. For example, flour can be kneaded together with other ingredients to make piecrusts, other types of dough such as pasta dough, and so on. This would be very difficult if not impossible to do were it not for the binding effects of gluten.
Gluten is also very absorbent, which is why itís useful in bread (for example, to sop up gravy with a piece of bread on a plate). And because gluten is so absorbent, it can be used as a special ďmeat substituteĒ for those on vegetarian diets.
Adding extra gluten to bread
The bread machine has made it popular to make your own bread, and specialized bread flours with extra gluten added have come on the market so that youíre sure of having a high gluten bread produced, which makes it more chewy, fluffier, and simply a better bread in general.
You should note that because all-purpose flour has had most of its gluten removed, itís not suitable for bread machine or breadmaking use. However, whole-wheat flour has had none of its gluten removed, which makes it suitable for breadmaking. In general, you do need plenty of gluten to make a good, chewy, fluffy loaf of bread thatís going to taste good and hold up well.
On gluten allergies: how is a gluten allergy handled?
Even though adding EXTRA gluten to bread may be a good thing when youíre making bread, if you have a gluten allergy, you must do exactly the opposite. And unfortunately, because gluten is in so many things these days, it can be very difficult to handle a gluten allergy. The simple fact is, though, if you are diagnosed with celiac disease, or if you have a child, for example, who is sensitive to gluten and wheat in other ways and you think removing it from the diet would be beneficial, this is something youíre going to have to avoid.
Your task if you want to avoid gluten is to simply avoid all products with wheat in them, as well as the grains rye and barley. Itís unfortunate that youíll have to avoid these grains for the rest of your life, since celiac disease does not go away. However, it can be controlled if you avoid consuming these grains.
It used to be much more difficult to follow a gluten-free diet than it is these days, because so many people are either suffering from celiac disease or think itís a good idea to avoid gluten in their diets for other reasons (i.e., such as if a child suffers from autism).
However, fortunately, manufacturers have seen the benefit in offering gluten-free cereals, breads, and other products normally made from wheat, barley and rye. Because of that, you have much more choice these days than you did even just a couple of years ago if you need to avoid gluten.
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