Nowadays, gluten free diets are gaining popularity with people contemplating of shifting to gluten free diets. Are they really helpful or beneficial? A gluten free diet technically excludes a number of grains. It is, of course, beneficial and necessary for people suffering from celiac diseases and gluten intolerance. You need to consider the benefits and risks of gluten free diet if you are planning to give it a try as sometimes going gluten free can be unhealthy. Before we come to understand about gluten free diet, we need to know what is gluten?
What Is Gluten?
Gluten refers to the protein found in the cereal grain’s endosperm which affects the elasticity of the dough and the chewiness of the baked products. Gluten is commonly found in wheat but is also found in barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). There are many grains that are gluten free like sorghum, buck wheat, quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, millet and corn.
Gluten is bad for certain people especially those suffering from celiac disease. When people suffering from celiac diseases consume gluten, it triggers an immune response that affects the intestine and hence prevents the absorption of nutrients. There is another form of intolerance called the non- celiac gluten sensitivity. In these patients who consume gluten, they experience celiac disease symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, and diarrhea but it does not affect the intestine. Hence as long as people don’t consume gluten containing foods, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity sufferers can lead a healthy life.
But are these gluten free foods beneficial for those who don’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity? There are many people who claim that they started adopting gluten free diet even though they are not suffering from Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity but is it truly healthy? Are you aware that there are certain risks when we eliminate wheat or gluten products from your diet?
Risks Of Gluten Free Diet
Gluten free diets are promoted as a way to lose weight or healthier lifestyle for the general population. But these claims are unfounded. But is it beneficial for these people? Let us know why going gluten free can add a risk not only to your health but also even cost your wallet if you are planning to adopt the diet regime from a health point of view.
- You may miss out dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals if you are going gluten free: Whole wheat cereals and grains are rich sources of fiber. Replacing with gluten free products tends to result in low dietary fibre and hence getting enough fibre from a gluten free product is quite challenging. Avoiding wheat means you are avoiding the wheat products that are rich in nutrients thus leading to the deficiencies of vitamin and minerals like niacin, folate and calcium.
- When we replace whole grains, we are replacing with processed gluten free products: When we look out for gluten free foods in the market, we come across an array of products that of course lack gluten but also do not contain certain nutrients. Hence gluten free products made of ingredients like tapioca, rice starch and potatoes tend to be refined or processed and lack the antioxidant and anti- inflammatory properties like the whole wheat. Hence you are not eating the natural products but the processed ones in the purpose of maintaining the gluten free diet.
- Going gluten free means adopting a new diet pattern altogether: Since wheat has been the inevitable part of the everyday diet, totally eliminating wheat or wheat products would require you to adopt a new diet pattern. Eliminate a whole category of food or food group can lead to certain nutritional deficiencies like zinc, magnesium, vitamins B, iron and fibre. You cannot just choose foods casually and you need to pay utmost attention to the foods that we eat. Whole grain foods are healthy and help in lowering the risk of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer. When we eliminate wheat, rye, barley and other gluten containing foods, it is difficult to meet the healthy dietary goals.
- It can cost your wallet: Going gluten free can end up in costing more than the gluten containing counter parts. The manufacturers have been cashing in the name of gluten free products and we tend to pay more for the gluten free products. These products were 455% more expensive than the ones that contain gluten. Hence going gluten free leaves you with a big hole in your wallet.
- Do gluten free foods really help in weight management? We always think that going gluten free helps us in shedding excess pounds. When we cut wheat from our diet, we are cutting the whole grains that contain germ, bran and endosperm that makes us feel full. Whole grains take longer time to digest thus increasing the blood sugar level gradually. Since gluten free foods lack in whole grains, they tend to make you feel hungry after you have eaten and the excess is stored as fat in the body.
Hence following a gluten free diet is especially important for people with gluten related disorders like celiac diseases or gluten sensitivity but there is no evidence as such that it is beneficial for people who do not have these conditions.
Gluten Free Diet
Initially, following a gluten free diet regime can be frustrating. Switching to a gluten free diet is a big change as you are starting something new. For assistance, you can consult the dietician who can advise you how to avoid gluten while maintaining a healthy balanced meal.
Here are the list of foods that are allowed as they are naturally gluten free, foods to be avoided and also foods to be avoided unless it is labeled as “gluten free”.
|Allowed foods||Foods to be avoided||Foods to be avoided unless labeled as “gluten free”|
Fish,meat and poultry
Fruits and vegetables
|(Foods that are made with gluten free grains)
Seasoned rice mixes
Oats are normally avoided as there is a fear that it can be contaminated with wheat during the growing and processing stages of production.
Hence if you have celiac diseases or gluten sensitivity, then you need to avoid gluten for life as that’s the only treatment for such condition. But if gluten free diets are advocated just for a healthier lifestyle and if you are not suffering from any gluten intolerance, needs to be careful and actually makes no sense. People who eat foods that are naturally gluten free like fruits, vegetables, gluten free whole grains, lean proteins, then gluten free can be a healthy diet. But if gluten containing whole grains is replaced by gluten free processed foods like pastries or energy bars then you will not be losing weight, you will gain weight instead. Why not just cut the refined foods and keep the healthy gluten containing foods?
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Have a good day!