There is so much nutritional information floating around the media that it can be hard to decide what to believe and what to brush off. Lately it seems like the most popular new “diet” is to be gluten free. But aren’t whole grains good for us? Why does it seem like everyone is giving up wheat, rye, barley, etc. or suddenly developing a food allergy to gluten? Better yet, what IS gluten?
Gluten is a protein that gives dough its elasticity. It can be found in wheat, barley, and rye. There are plenty of gluten free advertisements and claims on the foods found around the grocery store, stars are attributing the lack of gluten in their diet as their latest weight loss trick, and gluten free grains like quinoa are gaining popularity. So why are people starting to omit gluten from their daily diet?
The group of people that benefit the most from a gluten free way of eating is people with celiac disease. Celiac disease hosts symptoms such as digestive issues, anemia, osteoporosis, and can even be asymptomatic in some cases. Folks with autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes and thyroid conditions are more at risk for developing celiac disease and should ask their doctor about being tested for the issue. Celiac disease causes improper absorption of gluten containing foods, causing a whole array of potential health problems. So, for this diagnosed group of people, gluten free eating works wonders. Avoiding bread, cereal, and pasta products helps those with celiac disease combat their symptoms. Other surprising items that contain gluten include canned soups, beer, salad dressings, and soy sauce. Those with celiac disease should be diligent about checking labels to avoid any surprise symptom causing foods.
Celiac disease affects about 1 out of every 100 people in the United States. If you are lucky enough to not fall into that category, eating a gluten free diet may not have much benefit to you. If your motive behind trying a gluten free diet is weight loss, reconsider. There is no current evidence that suggests a gluten free diet contributes to weight loss. In fact, leaving gluten out of your diet may even cause nutritional deficiencies as you deny your body some of the key nutrients it needs. Many people want to try a gluten free diet to combat feelings of tiredness, depression, and bloating. However, these feelings are more likely to be attributed to the calorie deficiency of cutting out foods with flour.
Before going gluten free, follow these steps to assure it is the right thing for you and your body.
Schedule a check up with your primary care physician to discuss your concerns, possible symptoms, and interest in going gluten free.
Ask your physician for recommendations for an allergy specialist or gastroenterologist, a doctor who can test you for the gluten allergy. You must be currently eating gluten in your diet in order for these tests to work!
If you are diagnosed (or even not diagnosed!) consider speaking with a registered dietician about your symptoms and/or diagnosis to make a plan for the best possible diet staples for you.
Whether or not you are gluten free or diagnosed with celiac disease, chances are your diet could use a little clean up. How often do we underestimate how much we eat throughout the day? Our portions have grown in size over the years, and eating on the go is more popular than ever with our busy lifestyles. Remember, whatever you eat in private, you wear in public.
Though there are plenty of fads, opinions, and diets out there, there are some inconsistencies in the different recommendations. Fruits and especially vegetables should be a prime source of calories in any healthy diet. From there, people seem to form various opinions on their recommendations for meat, gluten, and dairy consumption. There seems to be no cure-all answer to nutrition and the research and advice is ever changing. Unless you have a food allergy or omit certain food groups due to personal beliefs, you can’t go wrong with a well-rounded diet. As long as you maintain balance and moderation within your diet, your waistline will thank you and your appearance will reflect the nourishment you are providing your body.