With celebrities toutinggluten-free dietsas their secret for slimming down, and entire grocery aisles dedicated to gluten-free products, it has a lot of people wondering, is gluten-free really the way to go?
Let's break it down.
What is gluten? Gluten isn’t inherently a bad thing – it’s a protein, it’s what makes dough stretchy. Gluten is used to add protein to a wide range of foods; it’s found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats.
Who needs to avoid gluten? Those with celiac disease (estimated 1% of population) and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (estimated up to 6% of population).
Why? In these individuals, gluten causes an immune system reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine, impairing nutrient absorption. Symptoms range from bloating to low energy to osteoporosis.
How can I find out? A blood test, then a biopsy to confirm. It’s important to get tested before going on GF diet, since blood test and biopsy results are only valid if the individual has been consuming gluten for at least 6-8 weeks.
Why do people often lose weight on a gluten-free diet? They’re often eliminating a lot of not-so-healthy high-calorie foods like pizza, cookies, etc, and may be switching to more nutritious, whole foods. Gluten free doesn’t mean ‘healthy’: Many gluten free specialty products (breads, pasta, crackers) are primarily refined, processed grains like potato starch, white rice flour, and tapioca starch that are low in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Tips to make gluten free healthier: Eat more whole foods like meat, fish, poultry and fruits and vegetables along with milk, eggs, beans, lentils, quinoa and brown rice. Also, read labels to look for more whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, lentils. Avoid refined starches (potato starch, rice flour, tapioca flour). Also, select products with highest fiber content.
Top gluten free picks:
Remeber gluten free choices don’t always have to be ‘specialty’ foods..
Chips: Baked Tostitos; Beanitos; most brands of yellow corn chips & blue chips
Crackers: Mary’s Gone Crackers
Bread: Canyon Bakehouse 7-grain
Tortilla: Nearly all 100% corn tortillas