Going gluten-free (gluten being a protein found in the likes of wheat, rye and barley) has been a prominent trend in the past few years. More people seem to be buying and cooking gluten-free. Despite its popularity, it still seems largely misunderstood so before you ban gluten, here are some facts to clear up any possible confusion.
NOT EVERYONE WILL BENEFIT FROM A GLUTEN FREE DIET
Certain individuals will most certainly benefit from a gluten-free diet, such as those with coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is a genetic disorder characterized by an inability to absorb Gliadin, a component of gluten. Coeliac disease is uncommon (prevalence varies round the world at about 1% of the population or less). It causes a strong immune reaction which leads to damage of the small intestine lining as well as side-effects such as diarrhoea, bloating and even malnutrition if poorly managed. The only cure for this disease is the complete avoidance of gluten. Another group of individuals are those who suffer from non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) where they benefit from gluten withdrawal but do not have celiac disease or a wheat allergy. Prevalence of this condition is still unknown as many people seem to self-diagnose themselves, however many scientists believe that it is more common than coeliac disease and wheat allergy.
YOU WON’T NECESSARILY BE HEALTHIER OR LOSE WEIGHT
The most common misconception with going gluten-free seems to be that people often believe that gluten is bad for you and that it is healthier for the entire population to avoid it. This is not true, as discussed above. The only individual whose health will benefit from avoiding gluten is the person with coeliac disease or any kind of gluten intolerance. Another common misconception is that a gluten-free diet will assist weight loss. It will depend how you go gluten-free where if you’re avoiding highly processed and excessive amounts of carbohydrates, it could lead to weight loss but not because of cutting out gluten. A product that is gluten-free may still very well be highly processed and low in fibre so when thinking of carbohydrates it is still more important to choose high quality carbohydrates that are low GI (glycaemic index) and high in fibre when aiming to be healthier and/or to lose weight.
WHAT IS A GLUTEN-FREE DIET
The gluten-free diet is the primary treatment for coeliac disease. Switching to this diet may be tricky and frustrating initially, but with time, creativity and the improvement of symptoms, you’ll find it will get much easier. It helps to focus on the foods that you can eat and not obsess over the foods to avoid. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised how many gluten-free options there are available at the moment and restaurants are also catching on by labelling which menu items are gluten-free. It will still be beneficial to visit a registered Dietitian who can offer support and guidance in the shift to gluten-free living while still maintaining a healthy and balanced diet.
MANY FOODS ARE NATURALLY GLUTEN-FREE
- Dairy – milk, butter, margarine, cheese, yogurt
- Vegetable oils
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Meat, chicken, seafood and eggs
- Nuts, seeds and nut/seed butters
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Most alcoholic drinks (unless gluten-containing ingredients were added after distillation) such as cider, wine, sherry, spirits, port, liqueurs
WHICH GRAINS AND GRAIN-LIKE PRODUCTS CAN I EAT?
|All forms of wheat (spelt, kamut, triticale, durum, semolina)
Oats (however many individuals can tolerate this)
Most ingredients with “wheat” in the name, except buckwheat
Foods coated in wheat bread crumbs
Most beer made from barley, lager, stout, ales
Plain rice , in all forms
Brown rice pasta
Maize, in all forms
All flours made from gluten-free grains, nuts, beans and coconut (almond, chickpea, coconut)
|For more comprehensive lists visit this website: www.coeliac.org.uk|
GLUTEN IS OFTEN HIDING IN SNEAKY PLACES
Gluten is often hiding in sneaky products such as in toothpaste, supplements, medication, salad dressings, processed foods such as burgers, etc. So it is important to ask questions and read the ingredients label and look for suspicious ingredients such as dextrin, modified wheat starch, malt flavouring and any name that contains wheat (except buckwheat).
YOU CAN STILL ENJOY MOST OF YOUR FAVOURITE FOODS AND RESTAURANTS
There is a vast array of products on the market which are now gluten free including bread, pasta, cake mixes, biscuits, cupcakes and rusks, etc. Your favourite recipes which normally may contain gluten can also easily be adapted to be gluten-free by using substitute flour such as buckwheat, almond, coconut, rice or chickpea. Just be sure to substitute the correct amount as often times you cannot switch between flours using the same quantity and sometimes the quantity of liquid needed will change. The vast array of gluten-free recipe books will also make this a simple switch.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The trend towards Gluten-free diets is driven by misunderstanding, populism (following trends) and desperation (to find a way to lose weight) more than by rational nutritional science. The gluten-free diet is vital for some with very specific conditions but offers no or marginal benefit to the rest of us.
This content was provided by FUTURELIFE®
- JL Thompson, MM Manroe, LA Vaughan. The science of nutrition. 2008.