Points of View

Is Gluten Bad? Harold McGee Tackles The Question

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Is Gluten Bad? Harold McGee Tackles The Question
Photo Rebecca Siegel/Flickr

Is there a word more polarizing in the food world than gluten? Some people avoid it due to legitimate food allergies, others shun it without even knowing what it is. Truth be told, there's much to discover about gluten and a lot of it isn’t scary at all.

To shed some light on the issue Lucky Peach reached out to cookbook author and researcher Harold McGee and asked: is gluten bad?

In classic McGee fashion, he begins by distilling the essence of gluten and offers a scientific look at the magical ingredient that gives bread, pasta and other baked goods their unique texture.

To help us really understand whether or not gluten is bad McGee makes two clear distinctions:

a) gluten can be life threatening to people with a clinical intolerance

b) gluten is also a “wonderful material” that gives bread its “chew”

He goes into greater detailing explaining the science of how gluten traps fermentation gases in doughs, resulting in a texture that is hard to imitate with gluten-free flours. Then he offers this verdict:

“I think the idea that gluten can be bad for you has been unfairly or unreasonably generalized. I don’t quite know what to say exactly, except that America is a country and a culture that has a long history of dietary fads going back into the nineteenth century. You can find every brand of both avoidance and—what would be a good term for the reverse?—let’s say obsession with particular ingredients that are thought to be the key to health. I think this just falls into that syndrome.”

Want to know more about gluten? Swing by Lucky Peach to read McGee’s full piece on the most controversial protein in recent history.

What do you think? Is gluten bad? Perhaps this video will help you decide:

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