What Exactly is Gluten? Plus 6 Clean-Ingredient Gluten-Free Snacks
Whether you’re switching up your diet to stay healthy, living with celiac disease, curious about the gluten-free trend or just what to know what gluten does to the body, we’re here to break down what exactly gluten is and why gluten-free is here to stay. Plus, we’re sharing some of our favorite gluten-free snacks for any on-the-go lifestyle!
What exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a general name for the prolamins and glutelins protein complex found in wheat, barley and rye. Aptly named after the Latin word for glue, the gluten structure is essentially what helps keep food together. It’s an elastic dough that’s created when cereal or wheat flour is kneaded with water and separated from its starch. Although this dough is a key ingredient in making bread, pasta and other baked goods, it can also be found in some unexpected places! Salad dressings, energy bars and soups all have the chance of carrying gluten.
Who should avoid gluten?
Although many people are opting to be gluten-free to switch up their healthy diet, there are two major cases where being gluten-free is a must.
People with celiac disease have an immune reaction to gluten in wheat, rye and barley, according to the Mayo Clinic. Eating products with gluten causes damage to their small intestine and can interfere with the absorption of vital nutrients. This can lead to inflammation, digestive problems and skin rashes, and in more severe cases, anemia, arthritis, and intense abdominal pain.
How many people have celiac disease? It’s hard to tell. Most go undiagnosed but health experts predict 1 in 100 people are living with celiac disease worldwide.
A large number of people have a sensitivity to gluten, while not being strictly gluten intolerant. According to a recent survey, more than 30% of Americans actively try to avoid eating gluten. They may experience the same symptoms as those with celiac disease like digestive problems, fatigue or headaches without the same damage to the small intestine.
How to know if you’re gluten intolerant
Gluten intolerance can be hard to pinpoint since its symptoms can be related to a number of causes. However, some common signs include:
Bloating – A swollen belly after eating gluten could be caused by a number of factors but if it’s a common occurrence after certain foods, take note!
Abdominal pain – Studies show that up to 83% of those with gluten intolerance experience abdominal pain and discomfort after eating gluten, making it the single most common symptom.
Diarrhea or Constipation – When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it can lead to inflammation in the gut which damages the gut lining. This makes it harder to absorb nutrients and result in frequent diarrhea or constipation.
Migraines – Migraines aren’t always gluten-specific but studies show that people who are gluten-intolerant may be more prone to migraines.
If you think you may have an adverse reaction to gluten, it may be time to see a physician and adopt a gluten-free lifestyle!
How to be gluten-free on the go
When it comes to living gluten-free, experts suggest focusing on naturally gluten-free food groups like fruits, vegetables, meats and beans. That sounds like the start of a delicious home-cooked meal but what about all those moments you’re rushing through your day? That’s when snacks save the day, getting you from hangry point A to happy point B. No matter what you’re craving, our favorite snacks are making gluten-free a happy addition to any lifestyle:
High protein gluten-free snacks
Calling all fitness fans! The Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Caramel bar is the perfect high protein gluten-free snack whether you’re crushing it at the gym, pedaling through your cycling class, or powering through pilates. With only two grams of sugar and 20 grams of amazing gluten-free protein, it’s the perfect pick-me-up for real, lasting energy after any killer workout.
Looking for something more poppable? Protes Cinnamon Protein Popcorn packs 10 grams of protein along with munchable, lovable crunch in every bite. Gluten-free, non-GMO and made with real, whole grains, these air-popped cinnamon bombs turn an indulgent treat into a healthy, protein-packed snack.
Sweet gluten-free snacks
Satisfy your candy cravings with sweet gluten-free snacks! Yum Earth Organic Gummy Bears are packed with delicious natural flavors like Pomegranate Pucker that send you right back to your favorite school days. USDA Organic, vegan and – of course – gluten-free, these chewy snacks make it easy to keep the fun and lose the gluten.
For a sweet snack with a little more crunch, Popcorners Kettle Corn chips transform the carnival classic into a unique popcorn chip! Made with just four all-natural ingredients including a drizzle of sunflower oil, cane sugar, and just the right amount of sea salt.
Savory gluten-free snacks
Savory, satisfying and still gluten-free? Perfection.
For a saltier snack that’s perfect on the go, Mario Camacho Olives with Sea Salt are gluten-free and bursting with flavor! Brineless and perfectly packed without the juice, this no-mess snack is perfect on its own or decorated on your favorite salad. Plus, olives are fueled with nutritional value like heart-healthy Vitamin E and monounsaturated fat.
Most crackers are off-limits for the gluten intolerant crowd but Blue Diamond Cheddar Cheese Nut Thins change the game with their nut and rice crackers! No gluten, wheat, cholesterol or trans fat, these crackers still manage to pack delicious flavor with every crunch.
With so many ways to snack gluten-free, it’s no wonder that some 2.2 million people in the US (and counting!) are following a gluten-free diet. After all, it can help improve cholesterol, promote digestive health and introduce more whole, unprocessed food into one’s diet.
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