Debunking Gluten-Free Myths

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What is Gluten Exactly?

Gluten is a general name for proteins found in wheat, which assist with dough elasticity, making dough pliable. Essentially, it is the glue that holds the product together. Eliminating gluten from products involves using other starches such as corn and potato starch and using alternative gluten-free grains like amaranth.

Who is the Gluten-Free Diet For?

For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, going gluten-free is a must. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder characterized by damage to the lining of the small intestine, which prevents the absorption of nutrients from food. Gluten from wheat, barley, rye, and oats causes the damage. Those with celiac disease suffer from painful gas, diarrhea, bloating, stomach pain, weight loss, skin inflammation, malabsorption, and eventual malnutrition. The only “cure” for celiac disease is a lifelong avoidance of gluten in the diet. Those with gluten sensitivities find that eating gluten gives them diarrhea or constipation and leaves them feeling gassy, bloated, puffy, tired, and generally out of sorts. These people have sensitivity to gluten and eliminating gluten from the diet often relieves these symptoms.

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Random Food Fact #3

Beef Jerky

Beef Jerky (Photo credit: Thomas Claveirole)

I stumbled across this food fact the other day and it has taken awhile for me to digest, not literally. According to The History of Food, Attila the Hun’s warriors used to preserve their meat by placing their fresh kill under their saddles. The “jerking” and pounding that came from the ride served to squeeze the water out of the meat and flatten it. Additionally, the sweat from the horse pulled more water out of the meat. The sweat also provided salt to preserve the meat. By the time the ride was over, they would have made dried and salted jerky out of their kill. Smart and disgusting, but true…

 

Reference:

Jango-Cohen, Judith. 2006. The History of Food. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books.

Random Food Fact #2

The crust of brioche bread is golden-brown due...

The crust of brioche bread is golden-brown due to the Maillard reaction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maillard reaction vs. Enzymatic Browning

What the heck? There’s two types of browning in cooking, and both involve proteins. But what is the diff? Isn’t browning browning? No. There is a distinct difference between the two.

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Random Food Fact #1

Ergot on wheat spike

Ergot on wheat spike (Photo credit: CIMMYT)

On days like these when it is beautiful out and I don’t want to be tethered to a computer, I would like to offer up some random food facts as blog “filler” when I am too busy or lazy to write. So today falls into the latter category and I offer you this tidbit.

Did you know part of the French Revolution was most likely caused by moldy bread? The French consumed a particularly dangerous fungus called ergot which had infected their wheat and rye crops and it caused a great proportion of the poor population to go slightly nuts. Here’s what Wikipedia says:  “The neurotropic activities of the ergot alkaloids may also cause hallucinations and attendant irrational behaviour, convulsions, and even death. Other symptoms include strong uterine contractions, nausea, seizures, and unconsciousness.” Continue reading