Published on: Friday, 28 December 2012 02:18:00.
Lots of people get worried when they hear the word "gluten" . Isn't that stuff bad for you? And isn't gluten-free a lot healthier? Gluten often gets confused with glutamate, which has been blamed for the infamous "Chinese restaurant syndrome".
But that's all nonsense!
Gluten is a naturally-occurring substance that is consumed by 90% of Germans on a daily basis. It is found in all types of grains. There's only one reason to avoid gluten: if you're allergic to it. A gluten allergy is a serious thing and prevents you from eating normal bread, pasta, and so on. This allergy is better known by the name "celiac disease". When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, their small intestine becomes inflamed. Symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, depression, and (in children) failure to thrive. The cause is believed to be partly genetic. Fortunately it's a rare condition, with only one in 1500 people in Germany suffering from it. Those who have celiac disease usually find out in childhood. For everyone else, gluten is a normal and healthy part of food. If you go low-carb, it's also the best part of wheat: pure protein! Avoiding gluten because a few people are gluten-intolerant makes about as much sense as giving up strawberries because some people are allergic to them.
Gluten is recovered by washing the starch out of fine wheat flour. You can do this yourself, but the carbohydrates from the flour will go down the drain. It's more sensible to buy processed gluten, since both the gluten and the starch are collected during production. Also, homemade gluten tends to form tough clumps. Store-bought gluten is much easier to measure and to work with.
By now, you may be asking why we need gluten. The answer is simple: gluten forms the framework for bread, baked goods, and all flour products! It makes bread keep its shape while baking, allowing pores to form. And gluten is responsible for the delicious crust.
For low-carb enthusiasts, gluten is ideal in its pure form. It lets us create delicious baked goods without eating all the carbs in flour. Baking with pure gluten does not work (we tried, and it was a disaster - the results had the consistency of car tires), but you can mix it with other low-carb flours to make bread and other delicious baked goods.
Most health food stores carry gluten, although it's usually pretty expensive. On our "Suppliers" page we've provided a list of places to buy gluten at reasonable prices.
A nice guide to making and processing your own gluten can be found at Sturmruhe.de.
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