Of all the different types of diets that have come about in 2018, the Ketogenic diet has been the most popular one. However, another close competitor was the gluten-free diet. The gluten-free diet became highly popular in 2018. Big celebrity names such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah Winfrey now strictly abide by the diet which begs the question: what’s so special about it?
The Gluten-Free diet
The gluten-free diet has been around for some time, it’s not something new. However, it was only followed by people who were sensitive or allergic to a protein known as gluten. It can be found in everyday foods such as wheat, barley, rye, bread, etc. Gluten by itself is not bad for you. If it was then it’d be a problem since it’s found in almost every carbohydrate source out there.
Gluten is also found in foods that are rich in vitamins, fibers, and other nutrients. Therefore, it’s certainly not anything bad. It’s just that special gluten-free versions of bread and other foods have to be made for people that are sensitive to gluten. Those who are sensitive to gluten can trigger autoimmune responses from within the body causing problems in nutrient absorption, growth deficiencies, and other conditions.
If gluten isn’t bad for you, then why has the gluten-free diet become so popular amongst those that don’t have any reaction to gluten? According to many people, the diet has a lot of health benefits associated with it, and it’s also the go-to diet for many people looking to lose weight. Is the diet worth it? Is it the right one for you? The answer is complicated.
Gluten-Free does not always equal healthy
Following a gluten-free diet is a risky plan if you’re someone who isn’t really allergic to it. For example, whole-foods such as whole-grain or whole-wheat foods are really good for the human body as they contain all sorts of different nutrients. They contain gluten as well, and if you follow a gluten-free diet, then you’re missing out on a lot. Therefore, if you still plan on following a gluten-free diet, consult a professional first.
If by going on a gluten-free diet your aim is to get rid of highly processed foods like cakes, cookies, and all those foods that have no real nutritional value, then you don’t need to specifically gluten-free in order to do so. These foods can be replaced by unprocessed foods and you’ll still get the same health benefit by ditching unhealthy foods. Also, if you feel that gluten-free foods are healthier in comparison, that’s not necessarily the case.
Some gluten-free products are higher in calories, contain more fat, and sugar in order to compensate for the lack of gluten in them. This is because there is a certain taste we’re accustomed to with regular products containing gluten. True gluten-free products will not taste that great for us unless these compensations are made. So keep in mind that tradeoff if you plan on going gluten-free.
Should one Go Gluten-Free?
Given everything mentioned above, the answer is complicated. However, if you’re someone who’s suffering from Celiac disease, then you absolutely should follow a gluten-free diet. Gluten causes inflammation in the digestive tract of people suffering from Celiac disease which results in bloating, cramping or even skin rashes. Therefore, a gluten-free diet for such people is the way to go.
If you’re gluten sensitive or intolerant, then it’s also a good idea to adopt the gluten-free diet. People with gluten intolerance usually get headaches, diarrhea, fatigue, or bloating when they consume foods containing gluten. If your child is gluten intolerant, then there’s a chance for them to have stunted growth. It’s recommended you see a doctor immediately so that your child’s future and growth isn’t jeopardized.
People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can also benefit from a gluten-free diet. Therefore, there are some cases where a gluten-free diet can be beneficial for those who don’t suffer from celiac disease nor are they gluten intolerant. However, it’s still a limited case and not everyone should go for a gluten-free diet.
What If you don’t have any Medical reason?
If you’re one who wants to adopt a gluten-free diet, and you have no medical reason to do so, then you can. It’s perfectly possible to get a balanced diet by going gluten-free. Essential nutrients like fiber, iron, folate, niacin, vitamin B-12, calcium, riboflavin, and zinc are still found in gluten-free foods. However, they’re not as abundant so you might need to take a multi-vitamin supplement to fulfill your body’s needs. You can boost your iron and protein intake by eating foods like Chicken, Fish, and lean Beef.
Although it is possible, it’s not recommended. One would need to go out of their way and make big lifestyle changes in order to adapt to a gluten-free diet. It’s really hard to make these changes and you might not even be happy with them. One should follow a certain plan only if they can live with it for the rest of their lives. Otherwise, that plan is not good enough as it’s not long-term.
Moreover, testing for Celiac disease becomes difficult if you follow a gluten-free diet. That’s because when you do get tested, your body shows no negative reaction to gluten, so it gets harder to make a diagnosis. One last drawback of the gluten-free diet is that it’s not cheap. Whole foods and other healthy foods like vegetables are fairly cheap and are quite feasible. However, gluten-free food is quite expensive and it might not be feasible for the long run.
If you haven’t been diagnosed with any disease and aren’t gluten sensitive, then one can consider going for the diet. In the end, you need to choose a plan that suits you the most. If the price isn’t a big issue and if you can live with a gluten-free diet comfortably, then, by all means, go for it. However, if you start reacting to gluten negatively, or just can’t see yourself using the diet in the long run, then it’s not the one for you.