Question:  Can you explain gluten free and low gluten?


NB: This article written by Stacey originally appeared in the Waikato Times, Tempo Supplement as part of the Fortnightly Body Talk column.


Gluten, for those who don’t know is a protein.  It is naturally occurring in wheat and produces strong, puffy and elastic bread.  You may have noticed that some gluten free baked goods are often crumbly.  Some foods will have added gluten, over and above the gluten found in the base ingredients to enhance elasticity, puff and strength.

As well as being part of bread and wheat based goods Gluten can be in things like sauces that are derived from ingredients containing gluten and also cross contamination in processing.

For those who are sensitive this protein is unable to be processed like other proteins and can cause stomach upsets and other symptoms.  Those who are completely allergic to gluten (Coeliac’s disease) will experience fairly similar if not stronger symptoms and their immune systems will try to fight the “invader”.  The gluten damages the villi (small fingerlike projections in the intestine).  The villi absorbs nutrients and when these are damaged nutrients aren’t able to be absorbed as easily.

There is a debate over whether gluten would result in greater health outcomes for all of us, not just those who are sensitive.

Gluten free standards vary per country.  Gluten in food is measured in ppm (parts per million).  In Australia gluten free is classified as containing no more than 5ppm.  In NZ it is 3ppm – but this depends on what lab the food is tested at. The most sensitive labs cannot detect below 3ppm, therefore the statements no detectable gluten are synonymous with whichever detection level is used.

So when we refer to gluten free it is less than 3ppm, and in the case of low gluten, The current FSANZ code clarifies low gluten as no more than 20mg/100g of food, otherwise known as 20ppm.  We have one of the tightest gluten regulations in the world.

But knowing the amounts doesn’t help us when we don’t have labs at home to test a product to see if it is low gluten and that’s where the Manufactured Food Database can help  This website has been compiled by Nutrition Services at Auckland Hospital and has a whole section on gluten free AND low gluten and will certainly have foods that you and your son will enjoy.  You can even download the application for mobile devices when you’re on the move.

The absolute best way to stay low gluten is to base the majority of your meals around vegetables, fruit, dairy, nuts, water and leans proteins and include gluten free breads and cereals.  Keep sauces and flavourings natural and home-made.  Some gluten free breads are better toasted (and in my opinion better toasted, than normal toast!)

30 Aug 10

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