Over the past decade or so there has been a lot of coverage about gluten and having a gluten free diet. In almost all supermarkets you can now find a dedicated ‘Free From’ section which features gluten free products. Plus, if you go out to eat you may notice that menus are now showing gluten free symbols against some of their dishes.
So, what is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in several types of grains including wheat, rye, barley and oats. When flour is mixed with a liquid (water, milk) it becomes sticky due to the gluten, helping the dough to rise and give it elasticity.
Should I go gluten free?
If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease (the most severe form of gluten sensitivity) or a gluten sensitivity/intolerance then yes you will need to remove gluten from your diet. If you think you have a sensitivity to gluten then go to your Dr and get tested, do not self-diagnose.
However, if you can tolerate gluten and suffer no symptoms of an intolerance then there is absolutely no reason to cut out gluten from your diet. If you think you may be intolerant to gluten but not sure, keep a food diary, writing down what you eat and how you feel afterwards (immediately and up to 4 hours or later) not just physically but emotionally too. This diary will also help your Dr if you go for a diagnosis.
When I say that you don’t need to cut out gluten if you don’t suffer from symptoms of a gluten sensitivity, I am in no way advocating you eat a diet full of bread, pastries and other processed crap of which, many contain gluten. What I am saying, is that if you can tolerate gluten, there is no reason for you to avoid a slice of amazing freshly baked bread or have a pasta dish or an amazing piece of cake when you’re out for dinner. It’s all about balance. Gluten is in a LOT of processed food, so whilst you may not need to give up gluten, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily include the processed foods in your daily diet. You should be aiming to ditch processed foods because they are mostly filled with rubbish, lack in nutrients and don’t provide your body with the nourishment it needs.
Giving up gluten means you’re eating a healthy diet, doesn’t it?
For many people when they have to give up gluten due to celiac disease or an intolerance they start to feel so much better they then want to keep nourishing themselves with wholesome, natural foods. However, there are also some folks who cut out gluten but don’t eat a healthy, balanced diet and often load up on the gluten free alternatives in supermarkets. Don’t get me wrong some of these gluten free alternatives are great (oatcakes, brown rice noodles are some of my favourites) but a lot and I mean a LOT (think crisps, cakes, biscuits etc) are loaded with even more rubbish to compensate for the lack of gluten, that the gluten containing product may actually be better. Just because it says gluten free doesn’t mean it is healthy!
Giving up gluten helps you lose weight
Yes and no.
Many people who give up gluten, re-think their diet and start to eat more wholesome foods and less packaged and processed foods and this, in turn, may result in weight loss. However, some may give up gluten but turn to gluten free products which are still highly processed and often filled with more sugar and other non-nutritious ingredients to compensate for the lack of gluten.
If you need to lose weight, giving up gluten when you are not celiac or intolerant is not necessary. Eating a balanced diet and incorporating some form of exercise into your daily routine is a starting point for losing weight.
If a client comes to me and says they want to give up gluten I always ask why. Sometimes people say they feel better without having gluten in their diet. I always tell my clients to get tested by their Dr for gluten sensitivity/celiac disease. Some people do feel better for not consuming gluten containing foods and haven’t been diagnosed with an intolerance however, this could also be due to the fact that a LOT of gluten containing foods are highly processed and contain many ingredients made in a lab; so it could possibly be not having the other horrible ‘ingredients’ in their diet is making them feel better and not necessarily the lack of gluten.
Whether you have to give up gluten or not my philosophy when it comes to food is to eat wholesome foods which man hasn’t interfered with too much. Sure have processed foods occasionally, this is what I mean when I talk about balance (there’s no way I could give up crisps!) but make most of your diet whole foods and you will feel so much better for it overall.
I hope this article provided you with some helpful information. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment below.
Health & happiness.