The answer is ‘yes’ but only if you are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease. A gluten-free diet is not necessarily good for our health—even if celebrities or the media says so.
Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jenny McCarthy and Ryan Gosling are just among the few who have openly adopted a gluten-free diet because they ‘believe’ that this type of diet is a healthier alternative.
Gluten-free diets seem to have become the latest “fad diet” as an estimation of about 1.6 million people in the United States are now following a gluten-free diet, even if they have not been diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Is gluten-free healthier than regular food?
For people who don’t have gluten intolerance disorders, the diet may be dangerous, although for those with celiac disease or NCGS (non-celiac gluten sensitivity), this diet is very essential.
In fact, according to Dr. Peter H.R. Green, MD, director of Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center, “unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can result to lack of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.”
It’s good news that more groceries now, as well as health food stores are stocking up on gluten-free products for people with celiac disease, but again, according to Dr. Green, many people may just think that “gluten-free” is healthier”. Paradoxically, the majority of people who buy gluten-free products are not even sensitive to wheat and don’t have celiac disease.
When Going Gluten-Free Makes Sense
According to a study from NPD Group, a market survey research company, almost 30 percent of American adults now claim to be reducing their wheat or gluten intake or totally cutting out the protein from their diets. (This percentage is actually much higher than the rate of people who do have celiac disease.)
If you have celiac disease, it means you need to maintain a gluten-free diet and avoid foods that contain gluten, a protein found in wheat and other sources such as rye, barley, and triticale (a combination of rye and wheat). Gluten acts as “glue” that helps hold the shape of foods such as bread, cereal, pasta, etc.
Outside of celiac disease or gluten intolerance, only very limited evidence exists stating that gluten is generally bad for our health.
What Nutrition Experts Think
According to Gaynor Bussell, a dietitian & spokesperson for the Association for Nutrition in UK, “Gluten is only bad for [your] health if you are a celiac.” “[People are being] duped by popular but poorly informed celebrities and media.”
Lisa Cimperman, a dietitian at a Cleveland, OH University Hospitals Case Medical Center and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, also said that, “There are no beneficial health effects [to a gluten-free diet].” The unwarranted praise that the gluten-free diet receives makes us believe that gluten is a dietary villain for everyone.
In fact, some nutrition experts even assert that for people without celiac disease, following a non-gluten diet may actually produce detrimental health effects. According to Mayo Clinic, gluten-free diets may lead to lower fiber, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and foliate levels in the body. A gluten-free diet can produce a lack of essential nutrients that the body needs to maintain a proper healthy, well-balanced diet.
Another case in point is the fact that many processed forms of non-gluten items being sold in groceries can be as high in fats, sugar, and calories as their gluten-containing alternatives.
So we may be ‘fooled’ into believing that gluten-free diet is healthy. Do note that grocery stores are now stocking an array of gluten-free options at a much higher price than their gluten-containing products. This may be all about the money.
If you think you have symptoms of gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, talk to your doctor for proper diagnosis. Also remember that, as with any kind of diet, the basis for a healthy and safe gluten-free diet must be natural foods such as fish, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and lots of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. Also use grains that don’t have gluten in them, such as amaranth and quinoa.
About the author:
Amy is a life and food lover, certified biologist, and holistic health coach. She is the founder of the healthy lifestyle website body-in-balance.org and creator of the online program, “ThinForever”. After successfully changing her family’s health and happiness, she’s on a mission to help other people achieve the life and body they want. You can find here on Facebook or Google+ or get her FREE clean, whole food recipe eBook “Amy’s Home Kitchen” here.