Going gluten free is still one of the fastest growing label claims. Many shoppers consider it a "healthier" diet, but it is not for everyone!
Going gluten free is still one of the fastest growing label claims. Many shoppers consider it a "healthier" diet, but it is not for everyone! According to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics being on a gluten free diet can mean missing out on the recommended amounts of important nutrients needed for optimal health and wellness including fiber, iron, B vitamins, and calcium.
Here are five reasons you should think twice before going gluten free:
Carbohydrates should make up a significant amount of your diet, and that is primarily where gluten is found. Cutting out wheat, rye, barley and the other whole grains that contain gluten, eliminates some of the key sources of complex carbohydrates in a balanced diet. Gluten free breads, cereals and crackers often contain more sugar and fat to mimic the texture and flavor of gluten containing grains. If you do need to be gluten free, quinoa, teff, brown rice, amaranth and nut flours are good replacements.
Weight loss: Trying to lose weight is not the right reason to kick the gluten (unless you suspect an allergy or sensitivity) because many of the packaged alternatives are not necessarily lower calorie foods. Many are highly processed. Products and books have touted how "eating wheat can shrink your LDL cholesterol particles, so they stick to artery walls and can help trigger heart attacks and strokes" or "that by eliminating wheat from your diet, you can turn back the aging clock" and even by "eliminating wheat you can stop counting calories and stop exercising." But according to Pam Cureton, RD, LDN of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, none of these claims are true. You have to be smart when eating gluten free, and cutting out an entire food group just to drop weight isn’t necessarily sustainable.
Low fiber: Gluten free packaged alternatives are often low in fiber. This could be even worse than previously thought as a recent study found that those who consume low amounts of fiber have a higher risk of conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular inflammation. Those who are seeking gluten free alternatives should focus on (as we all should) fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole (gluten free) grains – some great high fiber gluten free foods are raspberries, apple with the skin, lentils, almonds, avocados, beans, flax and more.
Gluten free isn’t easy! Just ask anyone who has been medically diagnosed with Celiac Disease. The diet is difficult to stick with and can be expensive, as sourcing 100% gluten free ingredients, processing them and testing the final product all add to production costs. Keep in mind that other than the obvious breads, pastas, cookies and cakes there are a wide variety of foods which can also contain gluten including candies, sauces, soy sauce, some teas, dressings, spices, deli meat, chips, imitation bacon and seafood, syrups and even self-basting turkeys! Read labels carefully as flavorings, caramel color, seasonings, spice blends, dextrin and modified food starch are all questionable ingredients for a gluten free diet.
Eating out can make gluten free difficult: Restaurant staff can get confused over strict allergy/celiac gluten free plates versus those who are just avoiding gluten because they heard they would lose weight. Be sure to bring a list of those ingredients to avoid in the preparation of your meal, and hand it to the server to check with the kitchen before you bite.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of celiac disease (which may include fatigue, anemia, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, unexplained headaches to name just a few) be sure to get properly tested by a medical doctor, and don't rely on just hearsay or a friend's recommendation to go gluten-free.