What is gluten?

Print Friendly

Gluten is a word that’s often heard in connection with diets these days. But what exactly is it?

Essentially, gluten is the name of the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s the protein that binds these foodstuffs together, like glue, and helps it keep its shape. People who follow a gluten-free diet are typically intolerant of gluten, and find that avoiding the protein in their food intake improves their health and digestion. Although anyone can choose to lead a gluten-free diet, people with gluten intolerance suffer from coeliac disease, where ingestion of gluten can damage the small intestine.

Which foods contain gluten?

Gluten-containing foods are among the most common carbohydrates in our diet. Pasta, noodles, bread, pastry, cereal, cakes, biscuits and pancakes are all common sources of gluten. Following a gluten free diet also means avoiding foods that are made with gluten-containing ingredients: stuffing and breaded foods, for instance, as well as sauces which may have been thickened with flour and oats that have been grown or processed alongside wheat.

Surprisingly to many, beers, ales, lagers and malt beverages (including malt vinegar) also contain gluten. That’s because gluten is present in brewer’s yeast. Wine and most distilled drinks, however, do not contain gluten.

For more information on foods that contain gluten, the Coelic Disease Foundation (US site) and Glutafin (UK site) have some helpful checklists.

Following a gluten-free diet

So if you’re opting for a gluten-free diet, what exactly can you eat? The good news is that fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy products, beans and nuts can all still be part of your diet. You’ll also get to choose from lots of gluten free grains, including rice, maize, soy, quinoa, millet and buckwheat. And of course, you can still eat potatoes to fill that carb-shaped hole that bread used to occupy. 

However, if you’re still craving your daily slice of toast, Jamie Oliver has a great gluten free bread recipe that uses gluten free flour, as does Doves Farm and BakingMad.com. You can also find ready-to-buy gluten free bread and pastries in supermarkets too: Genius are specialists at gluten-free bread, and Sainsbury’s also has its own Free From gluten range.

Reading more about gluten

The popularity of gluten-free diets means that it’s being dissected with careful scrutiny in many news outlets. For more in-depth articles on gluten and the trend of going gluten-free, we’d recommend a read of The New York Times’ 2011 piece, ‘Should we all go gluten free?‘ and, for a more cynical take, The Telegraph’s 2013 article, ‘The great gluten-free scam‘.

Have you ever tried going gluten-free?

The following two tabs change content below.

Silversurfers Features Editor

Hello there! I’m Rachel and I’m the Features Editor for Silversurfers. I work behind the scenes to bring interesting, informative and entertaining subject matter to the Silversurfers community. I hope you enjoy the features we have shared with you. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us, we love to hear from you!

Latest posts by Silversurfers Features Editor (see all)

Not a member?

Join the silversurfers community today! It's free, easy to do, and is packed full of features and amazing offers!

Join the community!
Click here if you have forgotten your password

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!

More Diet & Exercise

Cooking with Coconut oil Coconut with coconut oil in jar on wooden background
You’ve probably heard about the rise of coconut oil as a superfood, beloved by chefs and...
Sneak in 150 minutes of exercise next week Senior Man and woman exercising with bicycles outdoors, they are
To stay healthy or improve your health as an older adult, the NHS recommends 150 minutes of...
Natural laxatives for better digestion Brown flax seeds on a spoon and flaxseed oil.
Constipation is an uncomfortable digestive issue that can disrupt routines and feel unpleasant...
5 foods to keep you hydrated Cucumber In Water
Water is the essence of life; we ourselves are made up of between 50 to 75% of the stuff, but with...
Treat symptoms of IBS with the FODMAP Diet Mid section of woman with stomach pain in hotel room
Up to one in five of us are thought to suffer from IBS at some point in our lives, leading to...
"Good" And "Bad" Carbs - What Does It All Mean? Granary Bread On Gray Background With Stop Sign
From banning carbs outright to distinguishing between "good" and "bad" carbs, modern diets today...
Easy ways to increase your fibre intake Collection Of Grain, Cereal, Seed, Bean
Fibre is an important part of a healthy diet, especially as we age. It helps keep our...
Clean Eating: The Basics Tasty Breakfast Of Oat Flakes
The Clean Eating trend has become a  foodie phenomenon - but unlike other fad diets that tell...
Celebrate National Vegetarian Week 2016 Heart shaped food
It's National Vegetarian Week; people across the UK are celebrating the benefits of choosing a...
Inspired by the London Marathon? Try running! Senior Couple Running
Last weekend thousands of runners took over the city of London for the annual Marathon challenge...
The benefits of Pilates on body and mind Group of senior people and young woman and men in fitness gym doing sit-ups on the floor
Exercise is important for everyone, but aerobic exercise can put a lot of strain on the heart...
Track your progress with step counters Close-up Of Hand Holding Digital Pedometer On White Background
Regular physical activity is linked to a longer, healthier life; by staying active we can help...