According to statistics, 1 out 70 Australians is diagnosed with celiac disease that damages the person’s small intestines as triggered by gluten consumption. Worse, 80 percent of the cases are left undiscovered until the disorder manifests.
Given this and the growing number of lifestyle diseases including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems, gluten-free diet has become a household term nowadays. Relatedly, the public’s love for the effective gluten-free diets have helped shaped the way businesses innovate products.
Among the recent health fads in the food sector are the grain-free products often used interchangeably with gluten-free labels. While the two concepts are linked to the same food class, their implications differ significantly.
What is Gluten-Free?
Gluten is a mix of storage proteins found in different types of grain products, including wheat, rice, oats, and barley. It serves as a natural binder, giving the food its stretchy/starchy texture while holding its structure together. Recipes that use gum alternatives like xanthan and guar are considered gluten-free.
Delectable gluten-free products are in demand these days. This is since a considerable number of the population is born sensitive to gluten, some even had an autoimmune celiac disease which can severely damage one’s gastrointestinal health in worst cases or inflamed stomachs in milder cases.
In America, for instance, roughly 3 million are afflicted with the disorder, leading to a massive call for gluten-free products and recipes.
What is Grain-Free?
Grains are not proteins nor are they nutrients in any way. Grains pertain to a class of food, particularly they are plant seeds. Examples of which include wheat, corn, barley, rice, and oats. Grains are processed before they are used in food preparation, and as such their nutritional content (e.g., iron content) is reduced significantly.
Reportedly, grains are linked to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, thus driving the constant pursuit for grain-free food innovations of many households and commercial enterprises.
How to Tell?
To illustrate the point, let’s use donuts as examples. Gluten-free donuts use gum as a substitute for the natural binder product while grain-free donuts may use almond flour (or any other source). Not all grain-free donuts are necessarily gluten-free.
Thankfully, in many Australian supermarkets and food shops, it’s now easy to find products that are both grain-free and gluten-free, more so that there are available non-gluten grains like quinoa, sorghum, millet, and say black rice.
Besides observation like seeing and tasting, one great way to determine if the food is grain-free, gluten-free, or neither is to read the label.
Take time to read the nutritional facts and ingredients while shopping. This way, you also become aware of the other components like sugar, cholesterol, and salt.
If labels are unavailable, research is the key to awareness. This especially holds true when you create your own dish at home.
Online recipes are widely available, outlining simple to complex meals, desserts, drinks, and snacks that use gluten-free and grain-free ingredients. Familiarizing which ingredient is gluten-free or not makes your cooking life easier.
When dining in restaurants, proactively ask the server for the meal specifications unless explicitly written on the menu. Many takeaways and dine-in restaurants include wholesome food selections for a growing market segment of healthy eaters.
Certainly, getting into either grain-free or gluten-free diet is not for the fainthearted. Due diligence must be exercised. Yet knowing that the two concepts are different is already one step taken to help prevent health problems.