Many Columbia Restaurants Add Gluten-Free Menus

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COLUMBIA - Diners with an eye on the gluten content in their food are finding more options when eating out in Columbia. Gluten is a protein component found in grains including wheat, rye and barley. Oats may contain traces of gluten because of possible contamination from other grains.

The demand for gluten-free foods has increased greatly due to gluten's tie to celiac disease. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states one percent of non-Hispanic whites in the United States, now more than two million people, have celiac disease. When an individual with celiac disease eats gluten, an autoimmune response causes damage to the small intestine. As a result, the small intestine is unable to absorb nutrients that are important for the body to stay healthy.

Hy-Vee Dietitian Cassie McClellan said celiac patients can develop skin rashes, constipation, muscle pain, headaches, and many other symptoms if he/she eats gluten. So the only way not to get sick is to eat a gluten-free diet.

Ingredient restaurant general manager Danielle Lombardo said, "We get at least three phone calls a day asking if we have gluten-free food." So in response to the demand, many restaurants are now offering gluten-free items. Ingredient, The Rome, Main Squeeze, and Room 38 are just a few of the restaurants serving gluten-free items. Most Columbia grocery stores now have gluten-free sections.

Some starches that are considered acceptable and frequently used to make gluten-free foods are corn, potatoes, rice and tapioca. Shakespeare's Pizza and Domino's serve pizza crusts that are gluten-free.

A gluten-free diet usually allows for fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and many dairy products. But in the United States, the FDA considers foods only containing less than or equal to 20 ppm of gluten to be gluten-free.

Some choose to abstain from gluten not for medical reasons, but for other perceived health benefits. Gluten-free diets have become a recent trend. But many gluten-free products contain lower amounts of nutrients such as folate, iron and fiber than other foods. McClellan suggests if there is no need for a gluten-free diet, a person should not go on one. She said it is unhealthy because the dieter cuts out nutrients the body needs.

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