Top 5 Reasons NOT to go Gluten Free

November 04, 2013

Going gluten free is one of the fastest growing "diets" in the US - in fact sales of gluten free foods and beverages reached $12.5 billion last year. Many shoppers consider it a "healthier" diet, but it is not for everyone!

Going gluten free is one of the fastest growing "diets" in the US - in fact sales of gluten free foods and beverages reached $12.5 billion last year. Many shoppers consider it a "healthier" diet, but it is not for everyone! According to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics someone on a gluten free diet can be missing or be consuming less than the recommended amounts of important nutrients needed for optimal health and wellness including: fiber, iron, B vitamins (folate, niacin and B12) and calcium.

Reason 1: 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. And remember a gluten free cookie isn’t necessarily healthier because it’s gluten free… it’s still a cookie.   

Reason 2: Low fiber: gluten free packaged alternatives are often low in health promoting 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 much more.

Reason 3: 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 in calorie foods. Many are quite 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.

Reason 4: 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.

Reason 5: Eating out can make gluten free difficult. Wait staff 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. Some who require a strict gluten free diet for health reasons feel that those who are riding the gluten free fad are making light of the situation and as a result restaurants and other food service providers are not taking gluten free eaters seriously.

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.