Gluten free diets are the latest nutrition ‘trend’. We take a closer look at this diet to find out if it’s really worth all the hype.
Gluten is a mixture of two proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. It is found in most bread, cereals and pastas, as well as a lot of processed food. Based on little or no evidence, people have been switching to gluten-free diets to lose weight, boost energy, treat autism, or generally feel healthier.
Approximately 1% of the population is gluten intolerant and are clinically diagnosed with celiac disease, meaning that when they consume gluten an anti-inflammatory reaction begins within their body and damages their intestines. This disease can now be identified easily by a simple blood test. If you think you might have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it is best to see a doctor before going gluten free.
For the rest of us, a gluten free diet provides no benefit to our body and in some cases may actually be detrimental to health. Whole grains that include gluten also contain important vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Studies show gluten-free diets can be deficient in fibre, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc if you are not careful. Many gluten free products that are gluten free also have added sugar and fat to make their consistency similar to their gluten containing counterparts.
When beginning the gluten-free diet, individuals may decrease their total intake of processed foods and increase their intake of fruits and vegetables. Any weight loss can be achieved by eliminating high-calorie and high-fat foods, even if they are or are not gluten-free. The same is the case for people who experience increased energy when they first start following a gluten free diet.
The take home message? You can have a healthy diet with or without gluten, there is nothing magical about eliminating gluten that results in weight loss or any other health benefits. Focus on the quality of your whole diet instead of placing too much emphasis on one compound.