Tag Archives: gluten-free

GLUTEN! What the Hell Is That? A Trip Unveiling the Mystery of This Legendary Substance (or Is It the New SUV of Toyota?)

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It’s already few months that the word GLUTEN has become popular in Jakarta.

Almost every day there is someone that talks to me about gluten and gluten-free food. It seems to be a trend now here. It seems that, especially celebrities and upper class people (100% women! I’ve never heard a man pronouncing the word Gluten), are interested in gluten-free food, they consume it, they recommend it to their friends and they spread the gospel of this amazing diet.

But what is GLUTEN?

I actually did a small survey about that among my followers on Twitter and Facebook and among my friends and i realised that there are A LOT of confusions around it. Do you know what gluten is and what is a gluten-free diet? According to my experience most of Indonesian people, even the high educated ones, don’t know a shit about that although they have heard about it.

This is some of the answers i collected:

– Gluten is a kind of wheat

– Gluten is a sugar inside rice

– Gluten is a surrogate of meat, a kind of substitution of chicken and fish for vegetarians

– Gluten is a protein that can be removed from food after fermentation

-I t’s a food for vegetarians similar to the meat, in taste

-I  know it’s something related to food but i don’t know anything else about that

– It’s a bad ass evil guy in the anime “Naruto” (i added this one because it’s funny)

Go, Naruto! Kick Gluten's ass like he deserves!

Go, Naruto! Kick Gluten’s ass like he deserves!

Well, some people guessed it right too or, at least, they went close to the truth, maybe thanks to Wikipedia.

Let me start telling you that I have studied nutrition. I’m not a nutritionist but as a chef i had to study about that and i did it a lot. I have to know the composition of the food, i have to know about proteins, carbohydrates, fats and all the rest. I have studied the chemistry of the food and the biochemistry at university.

When i was in Italy i also attended a course about gluten and gluten-free diet and i have a certificate to state that. So you can trust me, i know what i’m talking about.

Gluten is a protein. It’s a simple protein (yes, it’s not a kind of poison) that is contained in some cereals, in most of them, actually. It’s contained in the wheat but not in the rice, for example, and it’s a very important component of the flour especially for baked products such as bread and pizza, for technical reasons that i won’t explain in this article. So if it’s just a protein, and we know that proteins are good and an important nutrient for our body, why do some people decide to have a gluten-free diet?

Gluten started to become popular after the discovery of a disease in the population: the celiac disease. The celiacs (people affected by the celiac disease) are gluten intolerant, it means that they can’t digest the gluten. It causes them some problems. They don’t die, don’t worry. Their intestine can’t absorb the gluten and it gives them diarrhea, belly pain and, in general they feel bad and sick (this is the easiest way to put it down, ok? But it’s a bit more complicated). Some people find out to be celiac when they are already adults, some of them live eating gluten for many years, going through a lot of liquid shit, before they are diagnosed with the disease. The celiacs should not eat gluten.

What gluten does to celiacs or mie ayam bakso di warung to me.

What gluten does to celiacs or mie ayam bakso di warung to me.

If you are not celiac you can digest the gluten like any other protein and for your intestine it’s harmless, it doesn’t cause you any disease or any problems. So the point is: are you celiac?

If the answer is YES, i’m sorry for you and unfortunately, you have to follow a gluten-free diet. If the answer is NO, this problem doesn’t absolutely touch you.

If you don’t know that, go do a test, but only if you have these symptoms. Do you feel bad when you eat cookies (or any other baked products)? Does your belly hurt every time you have a pizza with your friends? Do you have a chronic diarrhea? Do you kentut terus? If this is your case go to a doctor and ask to make a test for the celiac disease. Otherwise don’t worry about the gluten and eat whatever you feel like eating.

Only a low percentage of the world population is celiac but the number is growing. I’m not celiac. Lika is not celiac. My parents, my sisters, my kids are not celiac… Out of the hundreds people i know, i have only 2 friends who are celiacs and they both follow a gluten-free diet.

Now, I have heard people saying that they eat gluten-free food because it’s healthier. This is absolutely wrong. The presence of gluten doesn’t make a food unhealthy! It’s healthier (it’s rather an obligation) only if you are celiac, if you have that disease, otherwise it doesn’t make any difference (but it’s trendy, right? Also Gwyneth Paltrow does it! It’s cool!). Only celiacs should have a gluten-free diet, the rest of the population doesn’t have to worry about that (but of course you can stop eating gluten, if you want, it’s your choice).

Don’t make a fool of yourself, don’t spend more money to eat something that doesn’t affect your life, don’t be trapped into the marketing and the trends. In few words… Don’t be stupid. Unfortunately there are a lot of articles and advertisements that gives disinformation about gluten and they drive people to believe that a gluten-free diet is better for your body and health, which is completely wrong.

Gluten is not a poison, it’s not a chemical ingredient that the cruel food companies put inside your food to kill you (it’s not even a surrogate of meat for vegetarians like some of my followers said). It’s something 100% natural, it’s a protein like many others, naturally contained in some cereals.

It might shock you, but gluten doesn't look like this under a microscope.

It might shock you, but gluten doesn’t look like this under a microscope.

I think we all agree if i say that, i don’t know… The pork lard is not that healthy, right? Full of cholesterol… Well it’s totally gluten-free. What about the “Foie Gras” (fat duck liver)? it’s not too healthy either but it’s 100% gluten-free as well. Do you know gulai kambing or sate gajih? They are both gluten-free food but not that healthy. There’s no link between gluten and healthy food.

Maybe no one told you but you eat gluten-free food very often without even knowing it.

Let me list some of the very common food in Indonesia that are gluten-free:

– Steamed white rice (yes, nasi putih is gluten-free)

– Nasi goreng

– Roasted chicken

– Bubur ayam

– Gado gado

– Milk

– Sate ayam

– Sate padang

– Nasi uduk

– Cheese

– Any kind of vegetables and meat

And many many others. Generally speaking, all the food that doesn’t contain flour (especially wheat flour) is gluten-free, because gluten is contained only in some cereals (but not in rice).

This, instead, is a short list of some the most common food that contains gluten:

– Pasta (there’s also gluten-free pasta for celiacs made from corn. It sucks, actually)

– Lasagne

– Pizza

– Indomie

– Mie goreng (but not bihun, that’s from rice flour, right? Correct me if i’m wrong)

– Biscuits (unless they use alternative “gluten-free” flours)

– Bread (unless it’s made using some “gluten-free” cereals)

– Cakes

– Croissant

– Donuts

In general all the food which has flour in the ingredients (unless it’s a gluten-free flour like the rice flour) contains gluten. Is it less healthy? Absolutely not!

"Why bother looking for gluten-free cakes? I'm gluten-free too!" (Photo by flexmedia.co.id)

“Why bother looking for gluten-free cakes? I’m gluten-free too!”
(Photo by flexmedia.co.id)

I saw people posting picts of gluten-free cakes on social media telling that it’s a healthy alternative to a normal cake. They went through the whole cake, eating it all without any regrets because in their mind gluten-free means healthy so there’s nothing to worry about, they can finish it. Actually the difference between a gluten-free cake and a normal cake is only the flour, that’s it. There is still sugar, eggs and all the other ingredients you use to make a cake, just the flour doesn’t contain that protein.

So, do you want to have your gluten-free meal? Get a nasi goreng or a roasted chicken! Get a steak. It’s gluten-free. But after all, unless you are celiac, for you it doesn’t make a difference…. and you know what? Talking about food I’m getting hungry, i wanna go to have lunch. Who knows if in the food court upstairs they have “Sate Gluten” or “Gluten Goreng” with a gluten free jasmine hot tea

Catch you up, guys, comment and share, if you like.

Matteo

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