We are today exposed to a barrage of information regarding the harmful effects or the benefits of the foods we consume. This further adds to our perplexity about whether or not to consume a certain food item. Oftentimes, our decisions about the food we should eat or not is seldom backed by sufficient knowledge – whether or not to consume gluten is one such decision.
The very thought of “gluten” can cloud the mind with doubts. However, what we do need to know is that gluten is a highly misunderstood food component. It is a naturally occurring protein found in grains, mainly wheat. The chewiness and crustiness of baked foods such as bread and cakes can be attributed to the presence of gluten in them. Gluten is also present in cereal grains such as oats, barley, and rye.
Do You Need to be on a Gluten-Free Diet?
Not unless you are suffering from the Celiac disease. Gluten damages the cells of the intestines of those suffering from this disease. Also, gluten-intolerant people should strictly stay away from foods containing gluten. Those either suffering from gluten intolerance or the Celiac disease experience the following symptoms on consuming gluten based foods: headaches, gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal bloating.
It’s not uncommon to see people who are drastically giving up the intake of gluten based foods, despite being tolerant to it. However, experts say that giving up gluten means giving up the other nutrients as well which the body needs. Naturally occurring gluten is mainly found in wheat-based whole grains such as spelt, farro, bulgur, triticale, and kamut, which are rich in fiber, iron, minerals, and a host of the “B” vitamins. Gluten, in isolation contains negligible nutritional value, but reducing the intake of wheat-based foods containing natural gluten, may lead to nutritional deficiencies in the long run.
A Gluten-free Diet Helps in Weight Loss: A Myth
Total elimination of gluten calls for an entirely new diet, which means giving up on the diet that one has been used to, so far. Research has shown that gluten-free foods often lack in vital nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin B, zinc, fiber, iron, and even calcium. So going on a 100% gluten-free diet for prolonged periods may do more harm than good.
The initial effects of consuming gluten-free foods can be rather encouraging. People tend to feel more active, feel and look better while on a gluten-free diet because of the absence of starch and carbohydrates, that are known to create lethargy. Going on a gluten-free diet does not aid in weight loss, because most gluten-free foods contain either the same amount or perhaps more calories than those containing gluten.
Giving Up on Processed Foods Better than Going Gluten-Free
A gluten-free diet is best recommended for those suffering from gluten intolerance or the Celiac disease. One of the best ways of deriving optimum nutrition from foods is to eat a balanced diet that has the best combination of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins. Doing away with wheat completely is not advisable if you do not suffer from gluten-intolerance.
The gluten-free foods available in supermarkets are highly processed and are generally loaded with saturated fats. So before you feel that consuming a packed food product that clearly mentions being “gluten-free” would do you good, think again.
Tantalizing foods such as cakes, cookies, biscuits, and crackers besides containing gluten, contain negligible or no nutritional value. So, giving up on these food products is definitely beneficial to one’s health. While gluten in itself has limited health benefits, giving up on gluten by eliminating wheat and whole grains from one’s daily diet, may lead to serious nutritional deficiencies.
Sanjana Roy is a content writer with Transparency Market Research, a market intelligence firm based in the U.S. While her job profile entails writing on various global industry segments, her area of interest is food and beverages. She is especially interested in exploring trend-setting ideas that will define the food industry of the future, with a focus on health issues, new consumption trends and patterns, and the “food culture” that prevails today.