Try not to jump to conclusions after reading the title, hear me out first.
Number one, if you have celiac disease, it’s a no-brainer you need a gluten-free diet. So I’m not addressing that.
Number two, if you are actually gluten intolerant and find that following a gluten-free diet is helpful, great! Awesome!
The problem I have are with people that adopt a gluten-free diet thinking they’re automatically healthier for it. So they buy gluten-free bread, pasta, cookies, cereal, etc. and essentially eat the same food they ate prior to this “diet” and expect some kind of health revelation. Keep reading.
I do personally try to follow a naturally gluten-free diet most of the time, so obviously I’m not bashing the “diet”. However, what I’m replacing the “gluten goods” with, are MORE nutritious foods such as vegetables and fruits, and nuts and seeds. Not LESS nutritious foods like those gluten free crackers that are still full of trans fats and high in sugar.
Of course, not all gluten-free products are terrible. There are several good quality gluten-free alternatives out there – products that are made with real ingredients. They have ingredient lists that don’t look like science experiments and actually look like a recipe. Yay them!
Now you might be thinking, well what exactly is gluten and why are people afraid of it? Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. There has been quite a bit of research (some good, some probably not so good) about what it does to our body. But I believe what it actually boils down to is the amount of inflammation and damage it causes our digestive tract. This can lead to something called increased intestinal permeability, or ‘leaky gut’ for short, which may be caused in part by the zonulin released after ingesting gluten. The term ‘leaky gut’ basically means the tight junctions in your intestines have opened up and become more permeable to allow larger molecules and proteins to leak into your blood stream and wreak havoc on your body. This may manifest in forms such as joint pain/arthritis, skin conditions such as eczema, sinus problems, headaches, and many more seemingly unrelated issues; or it could manifest as other digestive problems including gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, etc.
So for a variety of reasons, many people have found relief following a gluten-free diet.
Some of the evidence you hear to support this may be simply anecdotal, but who am I to tell someone that what they’re claiming about THEIR body isn’t true?? Honestly, there really is no harm in following a gluten-free diet.
BUT, the issue I have is regarding the people that go about it the wrong way – thinking they are going to lose a bunch of weight when they go gluten-free and be SO much happier and healthier as a result of it. [first of all, celiacs that finally go gluten-free have been known to GAIN weight in some cases because their body actually starts to absorb the nutrients it needs.] You may lose weight, you may be happier and healthier, but that all comes down to exactly how you change your diet. If your gluten-free diet looks something like this:
Breakfast: gluten free bagel with low-fat cream cheese
Lunch: gluten free bread with miracle whip, American cheese, deli meat, lettuce and tomato and a couple gluten-free cookies on the side
Snack: gluten-free crackers with Skippy/Peter Pan/Jif peanut butter
Dinner: gluten-free pepperoni pizza
This is not nutritionally better. This is your same diet, without gluten. It’s missing good quality protein, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruit, and a number of nutrients and good bacteria. Remember, we were meant to eat real food – not a bunch of food made in the lab.
[As a side note: the only ingredient in peanut butter should be peanuts – no added sugars, no added oils. Skippy, Peter Pan, and Jif are all great examples of highly processed, poor quality peanut butters with added sugars and inflammatory fats.]
I know there are people out there that have strong opinions either for or against the gluten-free diet, and I’m here to say that I completely understand both sides. What I have come to find out, is that many people are looking for the perfect diet and the magic solution. Well, I’m here to tell you that doesn’t exist. You have to listen to your body and pay attention to what it needs. And if you listen real close it’s saying, “give me vegetablessssss” 😉
So back to the gluten-free diet. If it looks like this:
Breakfast: 2 eggs with sautéed peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach and garlic and ½ cup blueberries
Lunch: romaine lettuce with leftover roasted chicken, assorted veggies, and balsamic vinegar/extra virgin olive oil dressing
Snack: 1 cup carrots with 2 Tbsp. hummus
Dinner: 4 oz. pork loin with roasted broccoli, cauliflower, and squash
You’re doing something good for your body! This is gluten free AND nutritionally superior as compared to example diet #1.
So “in a nutchelle,” a gluten-free diet can be very beneficial – IF you do your research and go about it properly.