The Gluten-free diet... there's a fairly good chance you've heard about it and you might even be contemplating going gluten-free. Gluten-free products comprise one of the fastest-growing sections in our supermarkets and restaurants continue to add gluten-free alternatives to the menu.
This current trend of cutting gluten out of our diet has reached the potential to become fully ingrained in our everyday life. It's important to understand its significance in our culture and even more important to be aware of the potential misconceptions that have arisen along the way. Do you even know what gluten is?
Why is there a sudden interest in gluten-free food and is it necessary? Many health trends have a tendency of reaching Hollywood and expensive health stores and they usually don't expand beyond that. This time it was different.
The past few years have brought about an increased level of awareness of the potential harmful effects of incorporating gluten into one’s diet. A study done by NPD’s Dieting Monitor reported that one in every three adults in the United States claimed to either cut down on gluten or completely remove it from their diet in January 2013. This number is expected to increase over time.
There are also an increasing number of people diagnosing themselves. Many people seem to carry the notion that eliminating gluten from their diet is healthy. Unfortunately, unless you have celiac disease or have been tested and advised by your doctor to avoid gluten, the benefits to following this trend are not as strong as you’d think.
Celebrities thank the gluten-free diet for maintaining their ’svelte’ figure so people start following this diet on their quest to lose weight. Many high-calorie foods such as pasta, bread, cookies, cakes, cereal, crackers, beer, dressings, etc contain gluten, so just cutting down on the intake of these can lead to weight loss. Gluten can be formed when water is mixed with wheat flour and although bread flour contains a small amount of protein, that amount is extremely important for the cohesive and elastic character of dough.
As a result of the loss of gluten’s structural ability, food companies end up producing denser foods to make up for the lack of flavor and texture. The food becomes highly processed, and contains more fat, sugar, and sodium. Rather than using whole grains to produce food, gluten-free products are made using refined grains so the result is a product with a low fiber component.
The refined carbs also leads to a poor intake of many essential nutrients such as B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, folate, thiamin, calcium, and iron. Not only are gluten-free foods more expensive and not necessarily healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts, but they can also contain more calories. People initially feel great after a few days of going gluten-free but that’s expected considering the long list of foods that they can no longer consume.
At the end of the day, weight loss is fairly simple whether the food is healthy or unhealthy; you lose weight if you take in less than you burn off. There’s the risk of becoming deficient of a wide range of important nutrients and potentially gaining weight and there’s little point in taking that route unless you have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten.
If you’re looking for a good laugh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdJFE1sp4Fw
About the Author
Our blogger, Raia Hamad, is currently a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Molecular and Cellular Biology and Biological Anthropology - the realms that awaken her strongest passions. She also enjoys distance running and is enthusiastic about encouraging young women to pursue their interest in STEM.