The gluten controversy: Yes to gluten-free diets?

Gluten-free has become one of the most popular diets nowadays. But should you consider it?

To answer the question, let’s first clear up what gluten is.

Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. Gliadin and Glutenin are the two mains gluten proteins, and Gliadin is responsible for the often-negative reputation of gluten. 

There are two scenarios in which you should avoid consuming gluten: if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity or intolerance.

Celiac disease is the most severe type of gluten sensitivity. This autoimmune disease is where the ingestion of gluten can prevent the small intestine from absorbing the nutrients your body needs such as iron, calcium and vitamin D.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity or intolerance: This is a condition where someone does not have celiac disease, but they still experience adverse symptoms after consuming gluten, like bloating, abdominal, diarrhea or fatigue.

What to avoid: 

People who suffer from these two conditions should abstain from consuming the following popular sources of gluten:

Wheat, spelt, rye, barley, bread, pasta, cereals, beer and cakes, cookies and pastries and processed foods.

It should come as no surprise that a considerable amount of food contains wheat – or gluten. 

What to eat

The alternative for this is to always read the labels and consume whole, healthy foods. These are:

Most dairy products like cheese, milk and butter, fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, potatoes, rice and rice noodles and even flour, albeit gluten-free forms. As mentioned before, when in doubt you can simply check the label.

You don’t fit in these two scenarios

Now, there is another scenario in which some people go on a gluten-free diet. What if you do not have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity? Are there benefits to cutting out gluten? 

In short, no benefits, but downsides. In fact, according to doctors, there is “no reason for someone who feels well to start a gluten-free diet to promote wellness”. One of the reasons for this is that for people on a gluten-free diet, fibre intake tends to fall sharply, affecting overall digestive health.

Gluten substitutes?

It doesn’t end there. Ironically, gluten-free substitute foods tend to carry more fat, more sugar and more salt than gluten-containing ones. This means they are less healthy than the latter. More alarmingly, a gluten-free diet can get in the way of detecting celiac disease. Therefore, you should only go on a gluten-free diet if you have been diagnosed with the disease or some type of gluten intolerance.

You should always consult with a licensed professional before going on a diet. If you are interested in finding out more about types of diets, check out our new e-book A Guide To Types Of Diets: A Brief Introduction.


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