What's The Deal With Gluten?

Gluten Free Diets seem to be all the rage at the moment and have sparked a lot of interest in the media over the past few years. There is so much misinformation on such diets and whether or not you should be following them, no wonder you are confused! 

This week on our blog, KOJA Founder Kate and KOJA Dietitian Millie are going to reveal some truth bombs about everything gluten and gluten-free diets to help clear this confusion up once and for all. 

Throughout this blog, we’re going to reveal some truth bombs about everything wheat and gluten related, and clear this confusion up once and for all. Let's go!

Firstly, What is wheat?

Definitively speaking, Wheat is a type of grass which is harvested for its seed - a type of cereal grain. The grain is used to make flour, bread, cereals, pasta, biscuits, pastries, cakes, muffins, the list goes on. 

So what on earth is gluten then? 

Gluten is the protein component found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Gluten plays a role in maintaining the structural component of foods, in essence, the glue that holds it together. 

Which foods contain gluten?

Let's break it down into the different types of gluten:

Wheat commonly found in....

Flours, breads, cereals, pasta, canned soups, sauces, salad dressings, roux/bechamel, semolina, couscous

Barley commonly found in… 

Malt (malt syrups, malted barley flour, malt vinegar etc), food colourings, soups, beers and brewers yeast

Rye commonly found in… 

Rye bread (including pumpernickel), rye beer, some cereals

Oats commonly found in…

Oatbran, rolled oats, muesli, porridge

Triticale commonly found in… 

Breads, pastas and cereals 

Who should avoid gluten?

Those who should avoid gluten are those that have been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease or those with an intolerance to gluten. This is not a decision to be made lightly, you should contact your doctor and dietitian to determine whether going gluten-free is the right move for you and your health needs.

If following a gluten-free diet relieves gut discomfort and symptoms such as diarrhoea, excessive wind, nausea, abdominal pain or distention for example, then yes, going gluten-free is probably an appropriate choice for you.

However, if you don’t experience these unpleasant symptoms after consuming gluten and you are not coeliac, then by all means do not shy away from gluten. At the end of the day a gluten free cake is still a cake, it is not better or worse than your gluten-containing cake.

Despite common belief, gluten is not inflammatory either. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim! 

Is a wheat allergy and a gluten allergy the same thing?

No. Individuals with a wheat allergy may still be able to tolerate other gluten-containing grains. Those with coeliac disease however must strictly adhere to a lifelong gluten-free diet, no questions asked. Consuming gluten under the diagnosis of coeliac disease can structurally damage your small intestines and lead to an array of health complications and less desirable outcomes. 

If I'm gluten intolerant, can I still eat Oats?

This is a question we see pop up time and time again, and the answer really depends on you as an Individual. As a Dietitian, I find that most of my clients who are gluten intolerant (NOT coeliac) are able to tolerate varying amounts of Oats; the quantity will depend on your tolerance level. Here in Australia, oats or oat containing products are legally unable to be labelled as gluten-free, even though they don't technically contain any gluten. This is because they are often processed in facilities that handle gluten-containing products too. If you are gluten intolerant, we suggest trialling a small amount of Oats and managing your symptoms. You might be surprised and may be welcoming back the porridge sooner than you thought.

If you can tolerate Oats, they are a nutritious whole food and a much healthier alternative to often highly processed gluten free grain products. Here at KOJA, we love blitzing oats into an oat flour and using this in home-made sweets and baked goods. Oats are also an excellent source of prebiotic fibre to support your healthy gut bugs too. 

For those of us able to tolerate gluten, here's why we should..

Gluten containing grains can also act as a prebiotic, meaning it is able to feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut. While it is not gluten itself that offers the nutritional benefits, it is the whole grains such as wheat and barley previously mentioned that contain a variety of nutrients such as fibre, B vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium, all of which are important for our overall health and wellbeing.