Gluten Free Hype, Exposed

Supermarkets are filled with the “gluten free” label, but few know what it means and how it is beneficial for their health.

Originally, gluten free products were made especially for those that suffer from celiac disease, which is a genetic autoimmune disorder that prevents people from eating gluten. If a sufferer of celiac disease were to eat gluten, the immune system responds by attacking the small intestine, which will in turn affect the absorption of nutrients. The only cure to that so far is following a strict gluten-free diet.

So where and what is this gluten? It is the protein content found in wheat and other grains such as rye, barley, oats and their related products.

Instead, celiac sufferers resort to rice, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, beans, quinoa, and nut flours for their carbohydrate intake.

Recently, the industry introduced a mass line of gluten free products because this “diet” is also for those who have an intolerance or those trying to follow a healthier lifestyle. Most items found in the supermarket are processed and thus have hints or loads of gluten in them, so always be wary of the label.

In comparison to the actual celiac disease, people with intolerance tolerate diarrhea, bloating, or abdominal pain while eating gluten. On the long run, that would lead to nutrient deficiency because the lining of the small intestines shrinks, which also makes it harder to lose weight.

Currently, many nutritionists and dietitians around Beirut have adopted this trend by allowing their customers to test for gluten sensitivities to better navigate their diet program.

Even though the end result of not eating gluten is basically eating bread that tastes somewhat like cardboard, it brings a lot of health benefits only for those who suffer from any sensitivities or the disease itself.

However, eliminating gluten from your diet just for the fun of it is not necessarily healthier, according to recent studies.

In Beirut, many specialty stores and bakeries offer gluten free products for those who need it. Although not a largely encompassed trend yet, the city is slowly picking up to satisfy the needs of the consumers.

Many supermarkets such as Spinneys, TSC Signature, Wesley’s Wholesale, and others have introduced an aisle specifically for imported and local gluten free products.

Gluten free section in one of Beirut’s supermarkets. Photo: Paty M’s Nutrition World

In addition to that, you don’t have to bid farewell to manouche because some bakeries, such as Keyrouz Bakery in Mkalles and Kitchen Confidential in Achrafieh, have introduced gluten free manouches. It doesn’t taste just the same, but is good enough to satisfy the craving.

Keyrouz Bakery doesn’t only propose gluten free manouche, but a range of other products like sable, pain de mie, pain au lait, baguette, brownies, and more.

Kitchen Confidential is dedicated to provide customers with nutritious items not just gluten free, but also sugar free, and soy free in order to be dubbed as allergen friendly. Their menu encompasses salads, soups, sandwiches, burgers, and lebanese style wraps, such as falafel, kafta, and makanek. They also provide a range of desserts and cakes for those interested.

Kitchen Confidential prepares gluten free cakes. Photo: Kitchen Confidential

One thing to keep in mind is that going gluten free is also financially exhausting. Most gluten free items are double the price of their relative ordinary products.

Another recent bakery that opened up just for the purpose of preparing gluten free, lactose free, and sugar free products is Oh! Bakehouse, located in Monot. They propose breads, pate a choux, cakes, muffins, and bite-sized desserts. A personal favorite is their zaatar crackers that are perfect for a snack or with labne in the morning.

Oh! Bakehouse’s Products. Photo: Oh! Bakehouse

Gluten intolerants can also resort to two Facebook pages, Gluten Free Lebanon and Sans gluten à Beyrouth, for homemade recipes and tips to fit in the community of gluten free dieters in the country.

Luckily, sufferers are now embodied with many options to overcome their love for gluten.