You’d have to be living under a rock (a gluten-free one of course) to avoid the gluten free craze going on right now. It is everywhere. It is the Olestra of 2014. Remember the Doritos that promised anal leakage? Today, its gluten free. Gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free pizza, gluten-free bagels: all substitutes to help people avoid gluten. But why gluten? I am often asked what I think about gluten-free, so here goes.
Gluten is defined as a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species such as rye and barley. It can be found in many breads, pastas, cookies, cakes, if wheat is present, many sauces and soups, beer, and other grains such as bulgur and spelt. There is a huge misconception that being gluten-free means you are inherently healthier. I think its important to note that gluten-free products do not mean calorie or carbohydrate free, but most importantly, gluten-free products do not mean stocked with vitamins, minerals and other fabulous nutrients that we all need.
For those with Celiac disease, going gluten-free is the healthiest and only option. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestines that is a most likely a genetic disorder that can cause extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation, fatigue, failure to thrive in children, anemia and other vitamin deficiencies. People with Celiac have an allergy to gluten. Interestingly, celiac disease can only be determined thru blood work and/or small biopsy and/or endoscopy. The disease can be very serious but the complicated thing is that many people that go gluten-free do not have Celiac disease. Going gluten-free is not the solution for everyone.
Now you may feel discomfort or bloating from gluten and in that case, I would recommend lowering intake. Lowering gluten inadvertently means lowering sugar and carbohydrates and that is always a good thing and most people will feel better when this takes place. And if you have another ailment like thyroid disorder or irritable bowel syndrome, maybe you will feel better if you eliminate gluten. Most likely, you should eliminate several groups of food and slowly re-introduce one at a time over the course of a few weeks. BUT to eliminate gluten but then increase gluten-free products is where we are going wrong. Increasing gluten-free products often is increasing calories, processed foods (high in sodium, fat, preservatives) and other fillers that may be needed to make that bread still seem like bread.
So when people tell me they are gluten free, I want to learn a few things from them. What caused them to be gluten free? What do you eat in a typical meal now that is different from before? I ask this because I am most interested in knowing if going gluten free means you increase vegetables, fruits, other whole grains, protein from meat or plants. I do not want to hear that you ate gluten free pasta with gluten free bread and a side of gluten free mashed potatoes. Processed food is processed food, gluten or not. So moral of the story, and maybe every story I write, increase your fruits and vegetables folks.