What Is Gluten? Discover Its Benefits, Risks & Nutritional Impact


When delving into the world of health and nutrition, one question that tends to pop up is, what is gluten? While you hear the term a lot, it’s still something of a mystery. Some people claim it’s not that bad while others are adamant about only eating anything gluten-free. To put the question to bed, in this article, let’s learn all about gluten.

What Is Gluten?

According to Hopkins Medicine, gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale plants. While this is a relatively simple definition, it gets a bit more complicated. 

Even though gluten is naturally occurring, it can be extracted, concentrated, and added into foods and other products for a boost in protein, texture, and flavor. 

What Are Some Common Sources Of Gluten In Food?

Besides the aforementioned sources of gluten, let’s take a look at foods that tend to have higher concentrations of gluten.

  • Pastas (spaghetti, ravioli, penne…)
  • Noodles (ramen, udon, egg noodles…)
  • Breads and pastries (bagels, pita, croissants…)
  • Baked goods (cakes, brownies, cookies…)
  • Beer!

→ It’s important to note, these are by no means all the foods and drinks that contain gluten. There are many more. 

What’s Gluten’s Role In Cooking & Baking? 

Gluten plays a key role in cooking and baking. Without it, the latter’s almost impossible. 

Starting with cooking, gluten is needed as a sort of texture enhancer. This is especially true for something like pasta. Without gluten, the texture of pasta would come out soft and mushy.

In terms of baking, gluten plays a much more pivotal role. Gluten is created through the process of kneading and mixing flour, which then creates air pockets that rise and expand. Given that gluten is also a protein, it hardens when baked. All of this is to say that without gluten, baked goods won’t be able to hold their shape.

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What Are The Benefits Of Gluten Consumption?

What Are Its Nutritional Benefits?

Humans have been eating gluten for centuries, and the notion of gluten being flat out bad or unhealthy is a relatively recent one. In an effort to dispel the myth that gluten is pure evil, here are a few of its nutritional benefits:

  • Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Lowers risk of heart disease
  • Reduces risk of exposure to toxic heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and lead

What Is Its Role In Food Texture & Taste?

As mentioned, without gluten, food texture can end up being quite soft and mushy. This makes it particularly important when baking. 

In terms of flavor, gluten-free foods sometimes do taste different. This isn’t to say they taste bad, but more that gluten-free products (especially in baking), tend to have distinct flavors. Furthermore, to enhance the flavor and texture of gluten-free products, more sugars and fats are added. This gives it another distinct taste. 

gluten-free ingredients

The Rise Of Gluten-Free Diets

Why Do Some People Go Gluten Free?

There tends to be a few reasons why people go gluten free. Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or a desire to hop onto a health trend are the main ones. Of them, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are worthwhile reasons to do so, with real, positive effects on an individual’s life. 

In terms of the latter, there are a few misconceptions that need to be addressed.

What Are The Misconceptions About Gluten And A Gluten-Free Diet?

Again, humans have been consuming gluten for centuries. This means gluten isn’t unhealthy. The issue arises when the grains that make up gluten are stripped down to make processed foods like potato chips and other snacks. This causes gluten to get a bad rep. However, going gluten-free doesn’t solve this problem. The problem lies in the consumption of processed foods. 

What Are The Health Risks Associated With Gluten? 

What’s Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack the small intestine when gluten is consumed. According to Hopkins Medicine, this causes belly pain, nausea, bloating, or diarrhea. 

Anyone with celiac disease must go on a strictly gluten free diet. 

What About Gluten Intolerance?

A little confusing, gluten intolerance is a disease that causes gastrointestinal irritation in patients without celiac disease. It’s hard to give gluten intolerance a clear definition or explanation but it is advised to work with a physician or dietitian to work out whether gluten is the root cause. 

woman rejecting gluten and choose to have gluten free diet

Are There Gluten-Free Options In Italian Cuisine? 

Gluten Free Alternatives

For those who want to eat Italian food but need dishes made of gluten free food, you’d be pleased to know there are many alternatives. Gluten free pasta, pizza dough, and bread are all quite common nowadays, giving everyone the chance to eat their favorite Italian dish.

Gluten Free Ingredients

The way Italian food becomes gluten free in the first place is thanks to gluten free ingredients. Common options are rice flour, cornmeal, and quinoa. From these, there’s so much gluten free Italian food you can make!

Enjoy Gluten Free Dishes At Si Dining

Regarded the Best Italian Restaurant In Danang, Si Dining is proud to cater to all customers–gluten intolerant or not. With a team helmed by an Italian chef with Michelin dining experience, Si Dining has an understanding of how to give their customers the best dining experience. For those concerned about finding gluten free dishes on the menu, please don’t hesitate to contact us now. We’d be happy to assuage any worries.

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