Gluten-free is the new rage in the diet and weight-loss world. Sales of gluten-free products have doubled since 2005. But does a diet without gluten, a protein found in most grains, really help your waistline? The whole idea is a little misleading.
Unless you’ve been instructed by your doctor to avoid gluten for a medical reason like celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you don’t need to illiminate gluten for weight loss. Those who have lost weight by avoiding foods that contain gluten–such as cookies, cakes, and other baked goods–have perhaps done so because these foods are high-calorie, not high-gluten.
Just because a food is labeled “gluten-free” does not make it healthier. Beware of manufacturers using the gluten-free label on processed foods to suck you in to buying. These foods tend to be higher in calories in lower in fiber than regular grain products because extra fat, starch, and sugar need to be added to make them appetizing. For instance, a gluten-free cereal will often have much less fiber and only slightly fewer calories.
By current estimates, about 1% of Americans, or 1 in 133 people, have celiac disease, and about 6% suffer from a gluten sensitivity (you test negative for celiac but still suffer symptoms like diarrhea and migranes when you ingest gluten). However, 1.6 million people in the US who haven’t been diagnosed with either of these conditions are on a gluten-free diet.
The diet has been touted for relieving stomach problems and fatigue. If you’d still like to try it, just make sure your diet doesn’t rob you of nutrients you need for good health (not to mention good fuel for your work-outs). Make sure your gluten-free diet is rich in protien, vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats.
Many whole-grain products that contain gluten are also highly nutritious and full of fiber–which helps you lose weight. If you haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, then rather than going gluten-free to lose weight, you may just want to cut out white, refined grains and sugary processed foods–and stick to whole grains, including whole-wheat pasta, bread and brown rice–balanced with lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, legumes and healthy fats.