These days it would seem everybody is going gluten-free. I frequently get asked if I think that being gluten free is healthier. With so many celebrities endorsing a gluten-free diet it has become a food fad. Today I want to answer this question, and provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision for yourself.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a combination of two proteins that are responsible for the elasticity of dough. Gluten is naturally found in most grains and doesn’t have to be added to recipes, as it is already in the flour. It’s very important for the structural integrity of baked ingredients. Everything from bread to pasta needs gluten to maintain its shape. When the gluten is taken out, other ingredients have to be substituted. In people with celiac disease, gluten causes an immune response damaging the small intestine. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies, mental disorders, and physical pain.
Are gluten-free products healthier?
If you compare a gluten-free packaged item with its gluten-filled competitor, there are often twice the ingredients in the gluten-free product. As of yet, no one ingredient has proven to be as useful as gluten, and multiple ingredients have to be combined. This makes gluten-free products harder to digest for most of the population. The different gums required to replace gluten are hard on the digestive system, and can cause nausea, bloating, and various other side effects. If you look at the nutrition facts on the back of the box, more often than not, the gluten free product is sorely lacking. This is partially due to the added sugar needed to make the product taste better. When trying to decide if a gluten-free product is better for you, do a comparison. Pick the product that will give you the most nutrition per unit.
Will I lose weight on a gluten-free diet?
This is a misconception people have about a gluten-free diet. If you simply trade out your gluten-filled products for gluten-free products, your weight isn’t likely to change. In people with celiac disease, weight gain can be a side effect, so they may see some weight loss when they switch diets. If you switch to gluten-free but eat candy and gluten free cake all day, more than likely you will see weight gain. The people who do lose weight on a gluten free diet are probably also lowering their sugar and dairy intake. Often when a gluten-free diet is suggested it is also recommended to eliminate dairy. This eliminates most desserts and treats causing a lower consumption of sugar.
Who should try a gluten-free diet?
If you have perfect digestion and little to know health issues you probably don’t need to worry about trying a gluten-free diet. I don’t suggest you inhale loaves of bread every day, but making it a balanced part of your diet will do no harm. If you do have digestive issues, trouble sleeping, nervous system problems, or depression it would be worth a try. Gluten can cause a lot of inflammation in the body, especially in those who have prior health issues. Celiac disease can come with over 300 symptoms with most people only presenting with a few of them. This is why it is so difficult to diagnose. It is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. Two to six weeks on a gluten-free diet will make it pretty clear whether you are reacting to it.
We are unique individuals; I cannot prescribe one diet that will work for everyone. One person may feel entirely different on a gluten-free diet, while another may notice no changes whatsoever. The same goes for most other foods and diets on the planet. Pay attention to how you feel after meals. Keep a food diary if necessary. It’s amazing what you will notice if you start to pay attention to your body.
Eat Your Veggies!