Gluten—Facts and Fiction
Who doesn’t love the smell of bread fresh from the oven, all warm and welcoming, both chewy and crispy at the same time. It is the ultimate comfort food. Odds are strong, however, that in the last five years you, or someone you know, have tried to go gluten free. Maybe you’ve given up bread and gluten because you feel better not eating it —improved digestion, reduced inflammation—maybe you’ve even lost weight as a result. But what if it wasn’t natural gluten that was causing these health issues? What if the true culprit was something called vital wheat gluten?
What is Vital Wheat Gluten?
Many, if not most, commercial bread makers utilize vital wheat gluten—basically gluten on steroids—to make their dough stronger and rise faster. Even commercial organic bread makers use it if you check the label. The simple fact is the addition of organic vital wheat gluten leads to an unnatural amount of gluten in the finished product. But House of Bread only uses natural gluten. What’s the difference? Just like the testosterone produced in the body naturally is different than that found in injected steroids, natural gluten doesn’t have the highly condensed amount of gluten found in vital wheat gluten.
The way bread was made for centuries was a process that involved flour absorbing water, then fermenting to allow yeast and bacteria to activate the dough. Kneading this fermented dough forms the gluten that makes the bread dough elastic and the finished product chewy. But commercial bread making needed to make that process happen faster. Rather than spending the time to allow the gluten to develop naturally, they looked for ways to speed it up. Adding vital wheat gluten, a powdered and concentrated form of gluten, turned out to be the answer. Not only does the addition of vital wheat gluten save commercial bakeries time, but also it helps make their bread products lighter and airier.
And vital wheat gluten isn’t just showing up in our commercially made bread. Because it increases shelf life and acts as a binder, many food manufacturers put it in pastas, cereals, snacks and crackers. You might be surprised to find out the many places where this “gluten on steroids” is lurking in your grocery aisles.
Who Should Avoid Gluten?
Certainly there are people that have issues with gluten. About one percent of the world’s population (up to 3 million Americans) suffers from the autoimmune disorder celiac disease. An even smaller number of people suffer from a wheat allergy that can cause hives, sneezing, wheezing and other allergic reactions.
The Downside of Gluten Free
While vital wheat gluten may be causing some of our bodies to rebel, the reason many people give for why they are cutting gluten out of their diet is to lose weight and eat healthier. Unfortunately, opting for gluten-free products may not be accomplishing those two goals at all.
All too often gluten-free products replace white flour with ingredients like rice starch, cornstarch, tapioca starch and potato starch. But these replacements also happen to be highly refined carbohydrates. What’s more, these carbs create the same levels of sugar in the body that the regular gluten products do. So picking gluten-free may not be as clean as you hope.
Other downsides to going gluten free is that it may be difficult to obtain the proper amount of fiber in your diet. Gluten-free foods are often more expensive, as well. Then there is the fact that omitting gluten from your diet deprives you of the treat that baked goods provide.
Before going on such a restrictive diet, it might be better to try avoiding vital wheat gluten first. Although vital wheat gluten is a condensed form of the naturally occurring substance found in wheat, adding vital wheat gluten to baked goods takes the amount of gluten to a very unnatural level. This unnatural level of gluten could be the real cause of many of the bodily reactions you are trying to avoid. House of Bread is a great place for you to reintroduce baked goods into your diet, by enjoying our delicious, freshly baked bread and other items made with natural gluten only.