Have you ever wondered what the difference is between wheat and gluten? Many people think that the terms gluten and wheat refer to the same substance because the words are often used interchangeably.
However, there is a key difference between the two terms and a clear understanding of this difference is mandatory for anyone who is going on a gluten-free diet.
The important difference between wheat and gluten is that wheat is a grain and gluten is a protein. Wheat is a substance made up of gliadin, globulin, albumin and gluten. Therefore, gluten is contained in wheat, but wheat is never contained in gluten.
Gluten, however, is the elastic protein found inside of wheat. This is what gives yeast-filled dough its stretchiness. Gluten is also found in rye, barley and certain kinds of oats. The substance of gluten is created when flour is combined with moisture.
One can be allergic to wheat without being allergic to gluten. In fact, in my own experience, I found that I could eat every grain except wheat, so for many years I followed a strictly wheat-free diet. If you are only allergic to wheat, you can still safely consume grains that contain gluten, such as, malt, barley, rye and oats.
On the other hand, if you are allergic to gluten, you will need to avoid all gluten containing foods, including wheat. You will need to stop eating all flour based foods as well as certain soups, wines, gravies, sauces and flavorings. Make sure that the food you are eating is truly gluten-free. A helpful tip to remember is that, if a food contains wheat, barley or rye, it also contains gluten.
If you are gluten-intolerant, you must also avoid foods that are made in a grain-based or gluten facility. When you are faced with an unfamiliar food, ask if it contains gluten before eating it. Carefully read the ingredients on the food labels before buying the product for your pantry.
While eating out, inform your waiter or chef of your gluten allergy before ordering and, if there is not a gluten-free menu available,ask what ingredients are used in certain dishes. Believe me, you will find gluten in foods and products you never suspected of having it.
There is definitely a key difference between the terms “wheat” and “gluten.” It is very important that this difference is understood by you, whether you have Celiac disease or simply have a wheat allergy. Knowing the truth about these common terms can save you lots of worry and stress and transform you into a healthy, vibrant person.
Image courtesy Dag Endresen