Is going gluten-free just a trendy fad diet, or is there something to it?
When it comes to gluten, it seems the word has become a bit taboo these days. Restaurants advertise gluten-free menus, supermarket shelves are lined with gluten-free products, specialty bakeries are popping up … it’s all around us.
For some people (like those with Celiac Disease), a gluten-free diet is medically necessary. But it doesn’t stop there. If you experience things like migraines, bloating, swelling/joint pain and fatigue on a regular basis, then gluten may be the culprit. The best way to figure it out is to try an elimination diet for a few weeks, and then reintroduce it. Then, compare how you feel. It can come down to how well your body metabolizes it.
So where do you find gluten, and what is it exactly?
It’s a protein that’s found in wheat, rye, spelt, and barley, which puts items like bread, pasta, baked goods, and beer off limits. But it’s also a pesky little substance because it can be found hiding in unexpected places like soy sauce or in soups that are thickened with flour. The good news is that gluten-free versions of just about everything are readily available – and with choices to boot – but you’ll pay a premium for them. And it’s important to remember, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. Or better for you.
Gluten-free cookies typically aren’t healthier than the regular kind – which means not healthy at all – and an oversized bowl of pasta is still more than one portion….the lack of gluten doesn’t change that. You’re still consuming processed foods, and that’s what you want to minimize.
But by all means, stock up on foods that are naturally gluten-free! That means lots of fresh veggies, fruits, healthy fats like olive oil and avocado, and lean meats such as chicken breast or pork, or fish. Grains are where it can get tricky, but there are naturally gluten-free options out there such as quinoa and rice. So eat up!
The reality is, a gluten-free diet is formally prescribed to a relatively small percentage of the population while others simply notice that eliminating gluten makes them feel better. But if weight loss is your motivator, just keep in mind that opting for processed gluten-free foods like pizza isn’t any better that the original version and won’t tip the scale in your favor.