Gluten is a form of protein present in wheat, barley, rye and other grains. Gluten is what makes dough rise and stay elastic. Gluten is often used to make seitan, a meat alternative used by vegetarians to make faux chicken, faux beef and other vegetarian foods. Gluten is sometimes added to other foods to increase their protein content.
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High in Protein
A 4-ounce serving of seitan contains about 50 percent of the recommended daily intake of protein or about 26 grams of protein. Despite its high protein content, gluten is very low in fat at just 2 grams per serving. Wheat gluten flour is also rich in protein. A 1/4-cup serving provides you with 23 grams of protein but only 0.5 grams of fat.
High in Iron
Gluten is rich in iron, although the amount varies depending on how you’re consuming gluten. For example, a serving of wheat gluten flour, which equals a quarter of a cup, contains 9 percent of your daily requirements of iron. If you eat seitan, however, you’ll get a lot more iron. A 4-ounce serving of seitan contains 3.6 milligrams of iron, which is about 20 percent of your recommended intake.
Gluten provides your body with a number of other nutrients without adding cholesterol to your diet. Gluten is basically sodium-free, with just 9 milligrams per serving in the case of wheat flour. Gluten flour contains a small amount of calcium.
Who Should Eat Gluten
Gluten is a protein choice for people who don't want to eat meat because they have high cholesterol or other health problems. It's also suitable for people who are allergic to soy or dairy and cannot get their protein from those sources. Gluten contains carbohydrates, so it will provide you with some energy. However, the number of carbohydrates in wheat gluten flour is so small -- at 6 grams per 1/4 cup serving, just 2 percent of the recommended daily intake -- that those on a low-carb diet can still eat it.
Points to Consider
If you experience symptoms of stomach upset, dizziness, headaches or problems with co-ordination after eating foods with gluten, you may be experiencing gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity is not celiac disease or a wheat allergy, but it can cause inflammation in the body and brain, along with other troubling symptoms, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. If you think you may be sensitive to gluten, speak to your doctor before eliminating all gluten foods from your diet.