A gluten free diet is one of the latest trends but just like keto diets, it is meant for people who need it because of medical reasons.
Just like with many diets, their popularity is mostly due to the media and celebrity endorsements, which lead to many people adopting these diets without a real need.
What is gluten?
I have had a gluten conversation with many clients and friends, and many of them are surprised when I tell them that gluten is a protein. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye. If you don’t have celiac disease, gluten is not bad for you, but eating too many simple carbs, like white bread, pasta and desserts, certainly is!
Gluten should be avoided by people who have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or allergy. Otherwise, there is no sufficient evidence to say gluten is bad.
Actually, gluten-containing whole grains, like bulgur and barley, are rich in fiber and vitamins, and some of the healthiest foods you can eat!
For the small group of people who have celiac disease, their autoimmune response gets triggered by the ingestion of gluten. This reaction causes damage to the lining of the small intestine and then prevents the body from absorbing key nutrients and can lead to several symptoms, including depression, malnutrition, and anemia. But for anyone else who doesn’t have celiac disease, avoiding gluten is not a health necessity and can sometimes lead to nutritional deficiencies if not planned right.
At the ends of the day it’s all about the foods you eat. Foods made with refined flour and sugar, such as cakes and cookies, are a source of empty calories and provide little nutrition, regardless of whether they are gluten free or not. If you replace these items with unprocessed foods, like fruits and vegetables you will see a health benefit.
As a general rule keep in mind that just because something is gluten-free does not mean it is healthy.
Gluten-free products can be higher in calories, fat, and sugar to compensate for the texture and feel that gluten provides and may lack essential vitamins and minerals.
So what if you want to go gluten-free without a medical reason?
My personal opinion is that no one who doesn’t have medical reasons should go gluten free diet. Limiting sugar, processed foods like cookies and baked goods is something we should all do.
However, to be fair and non subjective here’s the truth. You can get a balanced diet on a gluten-free eating plan. Just keep in mind that a gluten free diet can be lower in nutrients like fiber, iron, folate, niacin, vitamin B-12, calcium, riboflavin, and zinc. If you choose to go down that road, I recommend choosing enriched whole-grain gluten free products.
Giving up gluten when you don’t have medical reasons means you may be unintentionally giving up vital nutrients in the process.
The conclusion is if you haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity, it’s okay to to buck the gluten free diet trend, you don’t have to cut out gluten because stars are doing it. Do drop gluten if you are having a reaction to it, but only after seeing your doctor and getting the testing needed for a diagnosis.
Happy Healthy Living,