I write articles on topics I have learned in college. I graduated with a degree in BS Food Technology.
The gluten-free diet has become so popular nowadays that even people who are not strictly required to eat gluten-free foods are doing it. According to Dr. Alessio Fassano, medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore, eating this way does not necessarily mean that it is healthier.
Let's discuss some of the common questions that people are asking about the gluten-free diet. You might want to read this first before jumping on the gluten-free diet bandwagon.
1. Can Anyone Go on a Gluten-Free Diet?
The gluten-free diet is not for everyone. It is strictly recommended by medical professionals for people who have celiac disease or have gluten intolerance.
People who are diagnosed as having celiac disease are strictly restricted from digesting even tiny amounts of gluten. This is because it will severely damage their intestines and consequently hamper the absorption of vitamins and minerals in addition to having undesirable side effects (fatigue, skin rashes, abdominal problems, etc). As such, they are not to eat food products containing wheat, barley and rye or any other products (bread and pasta) prepared with such grains.
There are also other people who are found to be gluten-intolerant. These are individuals who do not have celiac disease. Though they display classic symptoms of celiac disease, they do not have the intestinal damage. Included in this group are some people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and gluten allergies. Following a diet that is gluten-free or low in gluten has been found to be effective in alleviating the symptoms. Still, there are no recommendations as to exactly how many gluten products they can or cannot eat.
Medical professionals do not strictly limit recommending this diet to celiac patients, because there are many people who in reality have some level of sensitivity but have not been properly diagnosed. Many undiagnosed people who have tried the gluten-free diet have reported that it made them feel better and healthier.
2. Is Going Gluten-Free Unhealthy for the Rest of the Population?
While going gluten-free or eating lower amounts of gluten has beneficial effects for people with sensitivity, it doesn’t mean that it is healthy for all people. It is noted that most gluten-free products in the market do not provide the same amounts of iron, zinc, and vitamins B and D as the regular products prepared with wheat.
Also, since manufacturers need to compensate for the lost sensory characteristics imparted by gluten to bread products such as good texture and fluffiness, most gluten-free products available in the market have higher sugar and/or fat content.
3. How Can I Go Gluten-Free and Stay Healthy?
If you’re a celiac patient, then you don’t have any choice but to go gluten-free. However, if you are not a celiac patient or gluten-intolerant, then it is up to you if you want to follow this diet. It is better if you seek recommendations from a health professional first before doing so.
Also, try to offset the negative points of going gluten-free. Here are two important ways to do this:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables from which you can get the extra vitamins and minerals your body needs. Also, ask your health professional for recommendations regarding vitamins and minerals supplements.
- Make your own food. Though manufacturers are continuously improving the gluten-free products they are making available to consumers, fortifying them when necessary, it is better if you can learn to make your own gluten-free products from home. You can simply choose the naturally gluten-free grains and baking flour and substitute them in your favorite recipes.
4. Can I Lose Weight on This Diet?
Many people today think that going on a gluten-free diet helps a person to lose weight. This is probably because of the many popular celebrities who claim that their slim or skinny figure is due to going gluten-free. Is this true?
The answer to that question can’t be answered by a straightforward yes or no. It is possible that following a gluten-free diet can make you lose weight. However, it is also likely that it can make you gain weight. What conditions allow the loss or gain of weight?
A person on this diet can healthily lose weight if he or she will:
- Include more naturally gluten-free foods, such as fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and poultry in his eating plan.
- Avoid solely depending on store-bought, processed, gluten-free foods. It is healthier to make food from scratch.
- Ask the doctor for a recommendation on suitable vitamin and mineral supplements.
On the other hand, a person is likely to gain weight if he or she will:
- Consume more processed gluten-free products. A comparative analysis of bread containing gluten and another without shows that the gluten-free product contains more calories.
- Make poor food choices with their newly diagnosed condition. They may eat a lot of ice cream and chocolates for starters. And when they find out about gluten-free pasta and pastries, they further eat more without realizing that these may be comparatively higher in sugar and fats.
So, weight loss or weight gain are both possible. The major determining factor is having smart food choices. A person should, first of all, choose naturally gluten-free foods. In addition, learning to read food labels will be helpful in lowering the amount and quality of calories you consume.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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