The gluten-free diet is one of the most popular diets right now, thanks to celebrities such as the Kardashians and efficient marketing campaigns.
For people who suffer from celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet is life-saving. But if you don’t suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, is going gluten-free still the healthful option?
Gluten-free diets are often promoted as a way to lose weight or as a healthier diet for the general population, but there is no actual evidence that this diet is beneficial for people who do not have gluten sensitivity.
Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. It provides no essential nutrients. Its primary function is to give the elastic texture of dough and gives bread the ability to rise when baked.
Gluten-free vs Low Carb diet:
Going gluten-free is not just about cutting out wheat-based bread and pasta. Going entirely gluten-free is very restrictive. Many people tend to think that gluten-free and low-carb are the same, but these two diets have significant differences. It’s true that many foods that contain carbs — like bread, cereal, and pasta— also contain gluten. Carbohydrates, however, are also found in vegetables, fruits, and milk products. Some people who eliminate gluten from their diet do end up following a low-carbohydrate diet but that’s not always the case. A gluten-free diet does not ensure weight loss. A low-carb lifestyle does not mean gluten-free.
Is gluten your enemy?
Most of the time, going gluten-free means cutting out whole grains. Avoiding whole grains that contain gluten can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients, including iron, calcium, fibre, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.
If you feel well, there’s no reason to start a gluten-free diet to promote wellness.
Moreover, many gluten-free processed foods like bread and pasta are lower in fibre, vitamins and minerals than their gluten-containing counterparts. Therefore, switching to a gluten-free diet using these substitutes will result in a reduction in diet quality. In fact, these gluten-free substitutes are usually higher in fat, salt and sugar and contain more calories.
Should you really want to switch to a gluten-free diet to lose weight or to be healthier, focus on replacing gluten with fruits, vegetables and other healthful, natural gluten-free cereals such as quinoa, flax or buckwheat.
All in all, I believe that you should not avoid gluten at all cost. The gluten-free diet is very restrictive and as we said earlier, substituting bread and pasta for their gluten-free counterparts is not healthy. Instead of going entirely gluten-free, make sure your source of gluten is natural, unrefined and unprocessed, and that you get your recommended amount of whole grains.
However, I cannot make everyone change their mind. If you choose to switch to a gluten-free diet because you believe it will be healthier, then choose healthy foods and make sure you get all the nutrients you need.
If you suspect having a gluten-sensitivity issue, check with your doctor before changing your diet.