Gluten-free diets have become a popular topic of conversation over the last few years, and for many reasons. Many people believe gluten-free diets are healthier and help you lose weight. While this may or may not be true there are many factors to consider before embarking on this route. With that said let’s have a look at all things gluten.
Foods that qualify as gluten-free must meet the following conditions:
- They should be inherently free from gluten, for example, most fruits
- Should not have ingredients derived from a grain that contains gluten
- Have fewer than 20 parts per million gluten, meaning that the gluten has been removed
Most staple foods contain gluten, including bread, most desserts, cereals, cakes and pies, soups, processed meats, pasta, sauce mixes, and French fries.
What is Gluten?
Gluten refers to a naturally-occurring protein found in some grains, including rye, barley, and wheat. It functions as a binder and holds food together. It’s the component responsible for adding the stretch quality that you see in most foods.
Think of dough being stretched out. Without gluten, it wouldn’t stick together, and it would rip easily.
Gluten is associated with severe side effects in some individuals. Some people react to the product and develop severe inflammation. It’s also associated with weight gain, fatigue, bloating, and alternating constipation and diarrhoea.
What is a Gluten-Free Diet?
This refers to a diet that eliminates all gluten. The diet is especially recommended for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. In people with celiac disease, gluten causes an overdrive of the immune system and an attack on the small intestine.
People are also choosing gluten-free foods because they believe it contributes to weight loss. However, more research is needed to substantiate this. The diet is restrictive as it removes all the common foods you might be used to eating. The recommended foods are:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Most dairy products
- Seeds and nuts
- White rice
- Fish and poultry
- Fresh meats
- Fresh Eggs
- Unprocessed beans
It’s also a bit challenging to maintain the diet. Some foods not expected to have gluten may contain traces of the component, including ice cream and canned soups.
Advantages of the Gluten-free Diet
The diet is essential for people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergy. One significant advantage is that it prevents the destruction of villi in the intestine. Besides, when the diet is planned appropriately, it’s a rich source of nutrients.
There’s a public perception that gluten-free foods help improve gastrointestinal symptoms. People diagnosing themselves with gluten sensitivity report improved gut health when changing to a gluten-free diet. However, it is very important to have testing done before removing gluten from your diet, otherwise, testing may not provide valid results.
Risks of the Diet
There’s no harm in reducing gluten, but it may bring some risks in the extreme. In the absence of celiac, for example, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies and lack of fibre. Essential nutrients like riboflavin, iron, calcium, folate, niacin, and thiamin can be missing from the diet. Avoiding whole grains also means you don’t get enough fibre.
Following a gluten-free diet is imperative if you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergy. However, approach it with caution if you don’t have any of these illnesses. You might end up with other health issues if you remove gluten from your diet. Before embarking on a gluten-free diet, talk to your doctor about it and avoid being influenced by fads.