For individuals who are sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat, gluten-free pasta enables them to enjoy pasta dishes without fear of discomfort or other symptoms caused by consuming gluten. Gluten-free pasta is made of grains and starches other than wheat, which include corn, rice, and potatoes. Some traditional Asian noodles, such as shirataki, made from a fibrous root, or kelp noodles, made from a seaweed, are likewise gluten-free and suitable for inclusion in various noodle and pasta dishes.
Gluten sensitivity can trigger a host of symptoms, including digestive discomfort and problems, and may exacerbate the symptoms of some autoimmune diseases. Unfortunately, gluten is found in many foods, especially convenience foods and other common dietary staples such as pasta and noodles. Gluten-free pasta fills an important role in helping those with gluten sensitivity to maintain normal eating habits and the ability to enjoy a varied diet.
Some people with gluten sensitivities as well as the health care and dietary professionals who care for them are concerned about the legitimacy of some foods' claim to gluten-free status. For example, a gluten-free pasta might be made from a starch or grain other than wheat, but it may be processed or packaged in a facility that works with products that contain gluten. In some cases, even slight trace amounts of gluten can trigger unpleasant symptoms in those who have gluten sensitivities, so it is important for users of gluten-free products to understand the possible consequences of using a product that may contain some gluten residue. In the United States, there is no government standard for gluten-free, so purchasers of gluten-free pasta and noodles must take special care to read product labels and ask questions about manufacturer standards.
Many people who work with rice, corn, and potato gluten-free pasta claim that it can be prepared and used much like any other type of pasta or noodle, though it may be at its best in hot dishes. Those who use the Asian gluten-free noodles, on the other hand, may find them tricky to work with at first unless they regularly work with such noodles. Shirataki noodles, for example, are packed in a brine that can have a disagreeable fishy smell and odor that must be rinsed away before using the noodles. Individuals who want to incorporate gluten-free pasta in cold salads and dishes may wish to experiment at first before serving such a dish to guests.