Gluten is a protein complex contained in some cereals.

In bread making, when we add the water to the flour and begin to knead, the proteins that compose gluten (gliadin and glutenin) join and develop an elastic and spongy structure called gluten. Without the gluten the dough would be without elasticity and would not have the cohesion  necessary to then have a good leavening.

Which cereals exactly contain Gluten? Often there is much confusion on this point.

In order not to make mistakes, whoever suffers from gluten sensitivity and celiac disease can refere directly to the following website:  www.coeliac.org

There are no typical symptoms regarding these conditions. The most common gastrointestinal symptoms, such as cramps, gurgling and abdominal pain, diarrhea and flatulence, are the same as other diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome or gastric ulcers .

Other conditions such as anemia and weight loss may be the indicator of a hypersensitivity to gluten or celiac disease (remember that gluten sensitivity is not necessarily celiac disease!) .

Sometimes the symptoms are even absent. In any case, if you notice any of the symptoms listed above, it is best to consult a doctor immediately.

For those who simply want to reduce the gluten intake in their own diet, here is the list of cereals and products that contain gluten: wheat, rye , barley, spelt, oats, bulgur, couscous, kamut and seitan.

On the other hand, the following cereals and their flours are gluten-free: rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, soybeans, almonds, corn, buckwheat, chestnuts, potato starch, cassava, tapioca and all pulses.

Reason why Gluten is widely used is the fact that from its content depends the strength of the flour: the mixture obtained with a strong flour is dry, elastic and not sticky and has a remarkable ability to retain carbon dioxide, since it has a resistant gluten mesh . Therefore , the dough prepared with strong flour can withstand long-lasting fermentation and the result will be soft and raised products. From the technological point of view these are surely the best flours.

Throughout the years the demand for strong flours has considerably increased, therefore in order to obtain products with excellent characteristics,  manufacturing companies have increased the content of gluten in the flour.

Probably for this reason, plus the fact that the scientific knowledge of today is considerably higher than a few decades ago, more and more people are suffering from gluten sensitivity and  celiac disease.

What can we do then to avoid or prevent intolerances?

It would be a sensible thing to vary our diet as much as possible, this is crucial, because it allows us in general to take “in rotation” all the nutrients that our body needs, which is not easy with a monotonous diet.

On the other hand, varying as much as possible allows us to avoid the constant intake of substances that can accumulate in the body and then in time could cause damage. This applies to gluten but also for all those contaminants that unfortunately are present in the products we buy (nitrates, heavy metals , aflatoxins, etc, ) for which the European Union has established the maximum permissible limit.

This means that if we eat everyday the same salad that contains minimal quantities of the same contaminant in the long run you will probably have an accumulation of that particular substance in the organism with different consequences.

Returning to gluten, for those who do not suffer from gluten sensitivity and celiac disease (where the matter is obviously different)  why not try different gluten-free cereals? Or even different flours for our desserts? It will also be a way to try out new recipes and make more interesting and fun the way we cook!

 

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