Editor’s Note: Green and Gold is Junior Tennis Champions Center’s school newspaper. The monthly publication is managed by Mackenzie Clark, a student-athlete in JTCC’s full-time school. The following is an excerpt written by her older brother, Harrison Clark:
Let’s talk about gluten. In the past few years eating gluten-free has gone from a Celiac victim’s requirement, to a headline fad for health nuts all over the country. But no one seems to know what it is, where it comes from, and how it affects our bodies. First things first: gluten is a protein found in wheat and many related grains. Baker’s like gluten because it’s what makes bread fluffy and gives it rise. While gluten itself offers us little in the way of nutritional value, it’s often found in foods that contain necessary vitamins and minerals.
Physiologically, humans cannot fully digest gluten proteins. In fact, too much gluten in our system can be harmful to the health of our intestines (where we absorb all of our nutrients!). In Latin, the word “gluten” literally means glue. Think back to kindergarten when you made your own glue. All you did was combine flour and water and you got a sticky paste. This is gluten in action. The gluten proteins tangle together to make an elastic mush that does not dissolve in water. Now think of eating that elastic mush. Not only is it gross, but potentially harmful.
Now, I am not a proponent of gluten-free diets for all. In fact, gluten is in many healthy foods like whole grains and oats. So, as with everything, consume in moderation and follow a few guidelines:
1. If you think you may be gluten sensitive (you are having abnormal bodily reactions when you eat grains), consult a medical doctor, they will be able to tell you definitively after a simple genetic test; common symptoms include fatigue, sluggishness, constipation, diarrhea, cramps, and dehydration.
2. Cut down on eating a lot of bread; while it’s a good source of fiber and basic minerals, it’s the major source of gluten, and most commercial breads contain a high amount of sugar anyway.
3. if you can find “non-GMO” wheat flour products, great! if not, look for some gluten free alternatives using brown rice flour, quinoa, steel-cut oats, flax seed, etc; as the country is becoming more aware of gluten, more and more alternatives are showing up on grocery store shelves; yes, some downright taste like cardboard, but others are actually good; try a few different kinds, find one you like!