Is A Gluten-Free Diet Healthier For You?

Ok, so let’s talk about this whole “Gluten-Free” craze going on with everyone and the food manufacturers. You can pretty much walk into any grocery store today and find all your original favorite processed foods now offered in a gluten-free version. So does that mean the Bisquick pancakes are healthier for me now because they’re free of gluten? Good question, right? For those of you who are unaware of what gluten is exactly, it is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.

According to Alessio Fasano, M.D., director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Unless you have celiac disease or a true gluten sensitivity, there’s no clear medical reason to eliminate it, Fasano says. In fact, you might be doing your health a disservice. “When you cut out gluten completely, you can cut out foods that have valuable nutrients,” he says, “and you may end up adding more calories and fat into your diet.” Before you decide to ride the wave of this dietary trend, consider why it might not be a good idea.

With this said, why is it everyone is buying in on this trend of eating Gluten-Free? Does it really make you feel better? Or is it possible its all placebo and you are just thinking you’re eating healthier and that is what motivates you to eat smaller portions, exercise, and so forth? Be honest, and ask yourself… Why do I eat gluten-free today, but never in my past?

Once again, celiacs aside, where’s the health benefit to eat this way? Take a look at the products side by side next time you are at the store. Compare the same product’s nutrition labels with and without gluten, what will you see? You will find that gluten-free products are actually higher in overall calories, fats, carbs, sugars, and sodium while lacking protein, essential micronutrients (i.e. folic acid and iron), and practically double in price! So why do the non-celiac people consume and believe in gluten-free? Most people think gluten-free foods have more vitamins and minerals than other foods but that’s not 100% true.

According to Laura Moore, R.D., a dietician at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, “If you go completely gluten-free without the guidance of a nutritionist, you can develop deficiencies pretty quickly.”

There was a great article in Consumer Reports Magazine back in January and they had some great tips for those of you who still choose to cut out gluten from your diets, so here’s a few helpful tips you should know:

1- Get your grains. Whether you’re on a gluten-free diet or not, eating a variety of grains is healthy, so don’t cut out whole grains. Replace wheat with amaranth, corn, millet, quinoa, teff, and the occasional serving of rice.

2- Shop the grocery store perimeter. Stick with naturally gluten-free whole foods: fruit, vegetables, lean meat and poultry, fish, most dairy, legumes, some grains, and nuts.

3- Read the label! Minimize your intake of packaged foods made with refined rice or potato flours; choose those with no-gluten, non-rice whole grains instead. Whenever you buy processed foods, keep an eye on the sugar, fat, and sodium content of the product.

So, if you are eating gluten-free because it just simply makes you feel better (not because you are celiac) then power to you but in reality its not any healthier than the same product with gluten from a nutritonal stand point. As for weight loss, eating gluten-free in hope to shed some pounds is a waste of time and money. There is no scientific evidence that proves eating gluten-free foods will make you lose weight. What we do know and most of us already know, is that by eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, exercising daily, and getting the proper amount of rest (8 hours/night) is the ultimate gameplan to live a healthy life!

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