What’s all this hubbub about gluten?

When I first started working on this posting for my foodie blog, I thought about several titles.  Confused about gluten? How to have a gluten free lifestyle? or how about Gluten free, Why?  The problem is, today, there is so much confusion about “gluten free” cooking, how do you straighten it all out?  So here is my attempt to reduce some of that confusion for the uninitiated.

 First, what is GLUTEN anyway, and why is it so bad for humans? 

Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue“) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture.

 It is estimated that over 15% of the U.S. population (or one in seven) have a sensitivity to gluten.  That’s a huge number! Certain  people can develop what is called Celiac DiseaseCeliac disease is a serious disorder.  However, many people may not even know they have a sensitivity to gluten. Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity causes many unpleasant digestive disorders that can wreck havoc on a person’ life, and lead to such medical conditions such as: bloating, diarrhea, gas and flatulence, nausea, acid reflux, constipation,  or other conditions such as depression, autistic behaviors, joint pain, fatigue, infertility, ADD/ADHD, headaches, acne, bruising, night blindness, hair loss, eczema and more.

So how do you guard against this happening to you?  If you are already experiencing some of these conditions, eliminating wheat, barley, and rye products from your diet may be the answer to a healthier “gluten free” life style.  This means leaving out certain foods from your diet (here’s a partial list) Pasta, pizza, crackers, wheat breads, beer, cereal, pretzels, bagels, baked goods, cookies, etc.

Now you say huh?  Are your crazy? What‘s left to eat?  How can I give up bagels, pasta, beer and pizza?  Come on….you could do it.  Years ago, living a “gluten free” lifestyle was pretty difficult because many manufacturers were including “hidden gluten” in many of their products.  Today, there are many “gluten free” products on the market that can help everyone to lead a more normal life. Many manufacturers now include gluten information on their labels.  So check those nutrition labels on the side of every package . 

The question arises, should we be consuming wheat products at all? The fact  is, humans haven’t been consuming wheat, barley or rye for that many years along our total evolutionary timeline.  Our early ancestors didn’t even have these grains until many thousands of years later. For millennia human’s diets consisted of meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts.  I’m not recommending we return to the “stone age” but,  perhaps we could ALL lead a healthier lifestyle and feel better if we eliminated gluten from our diets.

Actually, there are far more foods that don’t contain gluten than do.  Beef, pork, poultry, fish, corn, nuts, seafood, vegetables, potatoes, legumes, eggs, fruit, dairy products and on and on.  Then there are the new “gluten free” products that are substitutes for many of the products on the “no-no” list. Super markets have “gluten free” sections where you can find many of these substitute brands. With a little hunting around, many grains that are gluten free: rice, tapioca, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth, quinoa, millet, taro root, and tef can be found.

One of the issues that “gluten freeers”  have to deal with is cross contamination.  If you have a “gluten freeer” in your home it can be tough to prevent cross contamination.  Therefore a little preplanning and care in the kitchen can mean a lot to gluten sensitive individuals. 


Gluten free dishes do not have to be flavorless and boring.  Try to stay away from prepared foods. Preparing foods with fresh ingredients will change your whole culinary experience. Your cooking will taste much better because you are using fresh produce.

Try this gluten free dish and see what I mean.

Green Chili Enchiladas with Lime


8 fresh corn tortillas                                            

1/2 lb ground beef                                                                               

1/2 cup chopped red onion                                                                                

1-2 jalapeno peppers (diced)                                          

1-2  lime (juiced, about 4 TBS)                                            

1 cup grated cheese for inside of tortillas             

1 cup green chili sauce (small can)  

1 toe garlic (minced)                                                 

1/2 cup grated cheese for topping

cilantro or chives for garnish

sea salt


1. Brown ground beef in pan, add onions , garlic  

3. Stir in lime juice, cook one minute, remove from heat & let cool

4. Heat tortillas in microwave for 10 seconds (just to get them flexible)

5. Spread tortilla on cutting board, and place about 2-3 TBS meat mixture in

    lower third closest to you.

6. Add 1 tsp chopped peppers and 2 TBS grated cheese.

7. Roll up tortillas tightly and place in oiled baking dish (seam side down)

8. Pour green chili sauce over surface, then add remaining cheese on top

9. Bake in 350 oven for about 20 minutes or until bubbly or cover with plastic wrap, and micro on med for 2-3 minutes until heated through.

10. Garnish with cilantro  (serves about four people)


To sum up, GLUTEN is a large protein found in wheat, barley and rye that many people have a sensitivity to. By removing this protein from your diet, you can also eliminate numerous digestive disorders from your life.  If you are experiencing  problems with digestion, perhaps you could try living GLUTEN FREE and improve your health by preparing delicious foods with fresh ingredients.

I highly recommend the book Gluten-Free Cooking for Dummies, by Danna Korn, and Connie Sarros.  It will explain in depth the basis for starting a Gluten-Free lifestyle and improving your health for life.

About the Author:  Wellness Chef Doug Cordier, is a food writer, TV cook, Certified Ergonomic Consultant and business man. Doug is the owner of Cascom Group Travel and has been teaching corporate and Italian cooking classes for twenty years, plus leading culinary tours to their villa in Tuscany. For more foodie thoughts and recipes, try www.askthecooks.com  


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