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What Is Gluten?

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It seems like no protein is more controversial than gluten. It shows up in all kinds of diet information, health warnings, at the doctor's office, on food labels. That little protein is everywhere. Let's learn a little more about it.

As you have probably heard if you're at all interested in this protein, gluten is the reason why dough rises. Gluten (whose name comes from the latin word for "sticky"), forms a binding matrix in the dough. This binding matrix traps the carbon dioxide generated by yeast or acid-base reactions, which causes the dough to rise.

Gluten is a protein complex made of two main parts: a glutenin protein and a gliadin protein.

Since scientists love to classify things, we like to group proteins together into "families." Gliadin is a kind of protein called a prolamine. A prolamine is a protein which plants use to store energy and which dissolves in alcohol. Each grain has a different type of prolamine. As we've mentioned, wheat's prolamine is gliadin. Barley uses a prolamine called hordein, and corn uses one called zein.

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