What is Gluten?
Gluten is the proteins found in Wheat, Barley and Rye. It helps foods maintain their shape, acting as to hold the food together. Gluten itself doesn’t offer special nutritional benefits. But the whole grains that contain gluten are rich in many vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron, as well as fiber.
Common foods with Gluten in them
Wheat Products: breads, baked goods, soups, pasta, cereal, sauces, dressings
Barley products: food coloring, malt, vinegar, beer
Rye products: pumpernickel bread & cereals
What is Celiac Disease (Gluten Allergy)?
Celiac disease is caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten. It can damage the lining of the small intestine which prevents important nutrients from being absorbed. An estimated 1% of Americans have celiac disease. Some people may not have a gluten allergy but can be sensitive to gluten containing products. People with gluten sensitivity may experience celiac disease symptoms like diarrhea, fatigue and joint pain, but don’t have damaged intestines.
If you don’t have a gluten allergy, should you still go gluten free?
Gluten is just one of many food proteins and is neither harmful nor crucial to good health. If you have a well-balanced gluten containing diet, there is no reason to avoid it. On the flip side, if you don’t tolerate it or prefer not to eat it there’s no reason you have to have it in your diet. Going gluten free won’t help you lose weight due to the absence of gluten but people find that cutting out gluten can help them avoid the temptation of empty-calorie, high-glycemic, and processed snack foods. Then there are those who think they can eat the same foods but the gluten free version. There is absolutely no health benefit of switching to the gluten free version. In fact, food manufacturers often use more fat and sugar to make the product more palatable when taking out the gluten. For example, a serving of regular pretzels has about 110 calories and just one gram of fat. The same serving of gluten-free pretzels is 140 calories and six grams of fat. A gluten-free” claim is by no means an indication that a food is more natural, healthful, or lower in calories (WebMd). Companies thrive off of claims like “gluten free” because it makes their product appear healthier over other companies.
Then why do people claim gluten free diets make them feel better?
They’re eating real food instead of processed packaged foods. “ If you choose to go gluten free make an effort to focus on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and gluten free grains like amaranth and quinoa, this can be a very healthy way of eating,” says Marlisa Brown, R.D., author of Gluten-Free, Hassle Free. “But you can’t just wing it.”
Personally I eat Paleo, so I do follow a gluten free diet. I think the most important thing is to find what works for you. Gluten or no gluten, eating a well-balanced diet will get you to where you want to be.