More and more individuals are taunting “gluten-free” as one their means of eating healthier. Is this necessary? Is this accurate? What do you think?
Let’s first define what gluten is and where gluten is found. Gluten is the collective term for proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley that give baked goods their doughy, elastic structure. Gluten is also used as a thickening agent and to enhance flavors in foods. Some food sources include: most breads, pastas, breakfast cereals, cookies, crackers, salad dressings, soups, sauces, gravies, soy sauce, and processed meats.
Foods that are naturally gluten-free include: corn, quinoa, rice, teff, arrowroot, buckwheat, millet, plain meat, poultry, fish, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and many dairy products. Therefore, when food packages boast about these products being “Gluten-free”, this is simply marketing and hype. Nothing was ‘removed’ to make these products gluten-free as they did not contain gluten to begin with.
The term “Gluten-Free” has become yet another fad-diet and many have jumped on the bandwagon. The fact is “Gluten-Free’ is medically necessary for those diagnosed by a physician with Celiac Disease (CD), Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), or wheat allergies. Individuals diagnosed with CD must follow a gluten-free diet due to the immune response that results in the damage to the lining of small intestines resulting in gastrointestinal (GI) distress and certain vitamins and minerals not being absorbed – leading to nutritional deficiencies. Those with NCGS or wheat allergies generally experience the GI pain and many related distresses; however there is no damage to the lining of the small intestines.
The issue is many people self-diagnose themselves and/or feel that eating gluten-free relieves their GI distress. Some use “Gluten-Free” as a means for weight loss. There is no evidence that support eating gluten-free is related to weight loss. Key nutrients must be monitored when eating gluten-free. This is the reason eating diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat/non-fat dairy, and unsaturated fats are important to avoid nutrient deficiencies, unless medically contra-indicated.
Bottom line, if you do not need to avoid gluten for medical reasons, gluten is not your enemy. There is no health benefit in ordering from the “Gluten-Free” menu at restaurants or purchasing “Gluten-Free” products from the grocery store.
Sandra Murray Gultry is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer. She is owner of It’s All About Choices, a private practice that specializes in weight management, proper fueling for physical activity, nutrition education, disease prevention and/or management in Orlando, Florida. Visit www.ActionChoices.com. Contact her at (407) 680-3023 or SandraYourRDN@ActionChoices.com
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