The term “Gluten Free” (GF) has been plastered all over food packages, menus and health websites. It is as though gluten has become the biggest health enemy that everyone should avoid.
Does gluten free = healthy?
Miracle Health Claims
I’ve read/seen/heard countless of times about the miracle health claims of going gluten free. So many promise exaggerated health outcomes that it makes me sick in the stomach.
Weight loss and improved energy levels (sound familiar) are among the most common “health claims”. FYI, there is no evidence. 😀
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and some grains like oat and rye. In cooking, it helps the dough to rise and contributes to its texture. Gluten becomes a problem only if you are truly intolerant towards it (Celiac Disease).
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune condition that destroyes the lining of the small intestines (reaction to gluten), leading to malabsorption of nutrients from food. Symptoms include pain, extreme fatigue, diarrhoea etc. For them, avoiding gluten is necessary.
The symptoms can be vague. Sometimes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is the triggering of sensitive nerve endings in the gut, is mistaken for gluten intolenrance. Recent research has shown that IBS might be caused by the malabsorption of fermentable sugars found in wheat such as fructans (and not gluten). It could also be other things like food additives, soy or dairy. You would have to do a restriction/elimination test to find out (before blaming it on gluten)!
This does not mean that these foods are bad for health. Avoiding gluten when you do not have a problem may be unnecessary. In fact, they may be unhealthy.
-Cutting out gluten would mean that you are avoiding a lot of wheat based products, which are good sources of B group vitamins, FIBRE, calcium and iron.
-Some gluten free products are HIGH in SUGAR (added during the food manufacturing process) as it makes them more palatable. (Weight loss? Maybe not)
-Could lead to a negative change in the bacteria composition of the gut. The right composition of gut bacteria is essential to the immune system.
-Gluten Free products are extremely expensive. Don’t waste your money.
-My GF friends despise GF foods. They miss the normal taste of CAKES. Be THANKFUL that you do not have a problem with gluten. So, EAT YOUR GLUTEN. ;P
Take home msg: If you do not have a problem with gluten, think twice before reaching out for a gluten free product!
If you are caught up and confuzzled by all the health/nutrition jargon, the healthy and safest approach would be to focus on consuming from ALL the FOOD GROUPS.
FRESH. WHOLE. NATURAL.
It is THAT simple and you can never go wrong.