For over a decade, gluten-free eating has been widely popular amongst health enthusiasts and weight loss seekers. When visiting your local grocery store, you’ve likely noticed that many shelves are packed full of foods labeled “gluten-free”. Unfortunately, for a large majority of the population—say 90-95%—such gluten-free products are really an unnecessary investment.
How the Gluten-Free Craze Began
As with most dieting trends, gluten-free eating evolved from targeted medical therapy aimed at a specific condition—In this case celiac disease (gluten-sensitive enteropathy). Celiac disease is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder of the small intestine that’s triggered by gluten ingestion.
Gluten itself is comprised of two proteins: gliadins and glutenins. Gliadins and glutenins essentially represent the structural components of gluten-rich foods including wheat and other whole grains like barley, rye, and a variety of cereals. Collectively, these proteins are responsible for the distinct elasticity, texture, and taste of whole grains.
Problem is, gliadins and glutenins can induce adverse effects when consumed by individuals with celiac disease.
Since there’s no known treatment for celiac disease, the primary line of attack is a gluten-free diet. In addition to people with celiac disease, individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (also known as gluten intolerance), wheat allergies, or certain medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and dermatitis may also benefit from adopting a gluten-free diet.
What You Should Consider Before Adopting Gluten-Free Diet
Gluten-free eating is most beneficial in the presence of celiac disease, wheat allergies, and specific medical conditions, like the ones I’ve mentioned. There’s no doubt about that. Reduced gluten intake may also help to reduce numerous symptoms associated with neurological disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes mellitus.
But, before you jump on the gluten-free bandwagon it’s important to consider this: There’s limited evidence to show any added benefits among otherwise healthy individuals.
Contrary to popular belief, consuming gluten-free foods won’t magically lead to weight loss either.
The fact of the matter is this: Less than 5-10% of the population actually has gluten-sensitivities that warrant complete abstinence.
For otherwise healthy folks gluten-related issues are often a result of general overindulgence in gluten-rich foods. You only need 3-5 servings of whole grains each day for health benefits. If you’re not familiar with proper serving sizes, you can easily eat too much.
For instance, did you know that two slices of bread equate to two servings? So, that’s basically two of your minimum three servings in just one sandwich!
I always emphasize that too much of a good thing can be bad for your health and gluten-rich foods are by all means no exception. Whether you consume gluten-rich grains or gluten-free foods, you can easily achieve weight loss and overall good health by simply managing your portions.
What to Do if You’re Really Sensitive to Gluten
In the event that you have celiac disease, wheat allergy, or any other medical condition that necessitates reducing your intake of or eliminating gluten-rich foods, it’s important to ensure that the gluten-free foods you consume are actually worth consuming. These days you can find a gluten-free version of just about anything from bread to frozen pizza to even cakes and cookies.
These foods are typically overly processed and, oftentimes, relatively lower in nutrients and higher in calories when compared to their gluten-rich counterparts.
Worst of all they cost more!
If you don’t have a medical reason for abstaining, that’s a lot of unnecessary money spent.
But, if you must adopt a gluten-free diet, choose your “gluten-free” foods wisely. For maximum nutritional value, opt for gluten-free foods made with all-natural grains like quinoa and wild rice. If you’re in need of some good ideas, I recommend purchasing a good gluten-free cookbook, as this will assist you in preparing nutritious, homemade meals.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Gluten-free eating is not at all necessary in the absence of celiac disease, wheat allergies or specific medical conditions. In most cases of “self-diagnosed” sensitivities, a lack of moderation is the real culprit. If you think you’re at risk of gluten sensitivity, it’s best to consult with a physician and get tested before totally eliminating it from your diet.
But, of course, if you choose to otherwise abstain from gluten, it certainly won’t hurt. In fact, many people swear by the practice.