Gluten 101

What is ‘gluten,’ and why is it in your food?

Gluten is the protein found in three of the grains – wheat, barley and rye. Other grains include: oats*, corn, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, quinoa*, rice (brown, white, wild), amaranth.

Borrowed from Latin gluten, or “glue,” the gluten protein in wheat, barley and rye give it a sticky quality, so doughs and batters have strength and elasticity. In breads, cakes, muffins, pancakes and drop cookies, gluten’s strength holds together the structure as it rises, so it expands evenly during baking. In pie crusts and cut-out cookies, gluten’s elasticity allows for rolling it out thin without it breaking apart.

*Oats and Quinoa. These grains are naturally gluten-free, but are commonly grown, stored, processed and packaged with gluten-containing grains, so the risk of cross-contamination is very high. Most Celiac patients and those with wheat, barley and/or rye allergies are encouraged to avoid oats and quinoa, unless the package specifically states it is “gluten free.”