What is Gluten?
Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat. Gluten is used to feed plant embryos during germination and later affects the elasticity of dough, which is why wheat bread is sticky and chewy.
Though "true gluten" is sometimes defined as being specific to wheat, gluten is often said to be part of other cereal grains — including rye, barley and various crossbreeds — because these grains also contain protein composites made from gluten proteins. *Adapted from LiveScience
Why is Gluten so bad?
Gluten isn't necessarily bad, but some people are gluten-intolerant, meaning their bodies produce an abnormal immune response when it breaks down gluten from wheat and related grains during digestion.
The most well-known form of gluten intolerance is celiac disease, which affects one in every 141 people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it triggers an immune response that damages their intestines, preventing them from absorbing vital nutrients.
Wheat allergy is a rare type of gluten intolerance — it's a classic food allergy marked by skin, respiratory or gastrointestinal reactions to wheat allergens.
Recently, scientists have become aware of another potential form of intolerance called nonceliac gluten sensitivity. After consuming gluten, patients with gluten sensitivity may experience many celiac disease symptoms, such as diarrhea, fatigue and joint pain, but don't appear to have damaged intestines.
In cases of gluten intolerance, doctors typically recommend a gluten-free diet. Patients must avoid eating any foods and ingredients that contains gluten, including bread, beer, french fries, pasta, salad dressing, soy sauce and even some soups (unless otherwise marked as "gluten-free"). *Adapted from LiveScience
Okay, I'm going gluten free. This means I'm eating healthy now, right?
Not necessarily. Many gluten-free products contain extra sweeteners, added preservatives or heavy starches to compensate for the lack of instant satisfaction that gluten brings to the brain. The next time that you reach for a box of gluten-free cookies, read the label and you will find that the main ingredients will be white sugar, potato starch and many other ingredients that can do just as much damage to your system as gluten. Choose options that are free of refined sugars, low in carbs and have a very short ingredient list!
What does "Paleo" mean?
Paleo is a way of eating that take us back to how our ancestors ate. Now before you pipe up and say something about how cavemen probably didn't eat cake, hear me out. Although some people take primal eating to the extreme, most of us who eat this way do so because we believe that modern day man should go back to eating unprocessed, natural foods. I won't bore you with a history lesson, but modern day food, including grains and meats, have been so heavily tampered with that they lack a lot of the nutrients they once provided us. To me, eating paleo means eating unprocessed foods, free of refined sugars (brown sugar, white sugar, corn syrup etc), free of most dairy products and avoiding grains as much as possible.
There are a few exceptions to these rules however. Grass-fed and finished meats and dairy contain nutrients that our bodies need. Seek out grass-fed dairy and meats and you will notice they taste different than your typical glass of milk or cut of steak and won't leave you feeling heavy or tired. I also find that I can tolerate rice and oats when eaten in moderation. At the end of the day, eating unprocessed, whole foods will leave you feeling lighter, more energized and happier. Trust me.