Why You Don't Need to be on a Gluten-Free Diet

It seems like almost overnight, gluten-free products have flooded our grocery store shelves. From beer to makeup, chances are you can find a gluten-free substitute if you’re looking for one. But what is gluten, and is it really as harmful as so many people and food companies claim? Before you shell out the cash for the often over-priced gluten-free products on the market, here are the facts:

What is Gluten? 
A lot of people believe gluten is something found in some forms of carbs, but very few people fully understand what it is. It’s not a “toxin,” or an artificial additive. In fact, it’s a naturally occurring plant protein found in wheat, barley, rye and a few other grains. That’s it – nothing more, nothing less. All those bogus claims that gluten is addictive and that it’s somehow associated with neurological illnesses or even autoimmune disorders are speculative at best, and they shouldn’t scare you away from foods containing it.

Is going gluten-free going to help me lose weight? 
People who claim weight loss due to a gluten-free diet are attributing their success to the wrong factor. Going gluten-free usually helps people lose weight initially because of the carbs they’re eliminating, not the gluten itself. It’s actually possible to not lose any weight or even gain weight with all of the gluten-free products in stores. To make up for lack of texture and flavor, some gluten-free alternatives have more calories from added fats and sugars. Also, as a replacement for the wheat, some brands will substitute the grain for rice or corn products and derivatives, which have a lower glycemic index. This means you will get hungrier faster. You’d probably be better off having a good old-fashioned slice of whole-wheat toast than a lot of the super-processed gluten-free snacks currently on the market.

Who needs to be on a gluten-free diet? 
The only people who would medically benefit from being on a gluten-free diet are people with Celiac disease, a wheat allergy, or gluten intolerance or sensitivity – conditions that need to be assessed and diagnosed by a doctor. Don’t make any drastic changes in your diet by cutting out an entire food group without first talking to a doctor and weighing the potential risks and benefits.

When all’s said and done, use common sense and good judgment to not get swept up by a passing health fad. A gluten-free diet is a necessity for those with certain diseases and allergies, but it’s not necessary for a majority of the general population.

If you want more info, check out this great video on the great gluten debate:

Healthcare Triage: You Probably Don't Need to be on that Gluten Free Diet

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