You may know someone on a gluten free diet or have probably heard about it. There are health myths on how limiting gluten on your diet may improve your health. Meanwhile, others claim that gluten is good as it contains the recommended amount of protein and other nutrients without fats—except for people with celiac disease. Still, there’s no compelling scientific evidence to support either claim.
Suppose you’ve no idea what gluten is and how it’s relevant to your nutrition. Gluten is a family of proteins mostly found in grains such as barley, wheat, spelt, rye, etc. Gluten is also a component of some supplements, vitamins, toothpaste, lip balm, as well as hair and skincare products.
If you’re diagnosed with celiac disease, then you’re most likely gluten intolerant. You can’t eat any food with gluten as it may damage your gut wall, causing digestive issues, anemia, nutrient deficiencies, and risks for many other diseases.
This article attempts to give the pros and cons of a gluten-free diet to balance the health myths or claims about it.
Pros Of A Gluten Free Diet
Faster Nutrient Absorption For People With Celiac Disease
Some studies revealed that following a gluten-free diet may help alleviate digestive symptoms in people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If you have celiac disease, consuming gluten causes your immune system to attack the gluten—as your body considers it a foreign invader—affecting your small intestine. This reaction, over time, damages your small intestine and prevents it from consuming any nutrients that your system needs.
If you’re not sure whether or not your body can tolerate gluten, it’s strongly advised to consult your doctor to know your current health state, achieve proper nutrition, and deal with celiac disease properly (if you have it).
Good For Low-Carb Diet
If you’re on a low-carb diet, choosing to go gluten free may be ideal for you. Gluten and carbohydrates go hand in hand. Since gluten is found in many high-carb foods, aiming for a gluten-free diet will assist with cutting down on carbs.
Those who aren’t on a low-carb diet but want to go gluten free, don’t worry, as you can still buy gluten-free bread or food containing a significant amount of carbohydrates in the market. If you like to dine in food places, you may ask the staff if they have gluten-free restaurant menus.
Managing Overall Diet And Nutrition Is Easier
It becomes easier for you to manage your overall diet and nutrition if you know what gluten-free foods you can consume. You can choose from the list of gluten-free unprocessed foods such as:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Fresh poultry, fish, meat
- Nuts and seeds
- Dairy products (eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, milk)
- Gluten-free grains (buckwheat, tapioca, teff, quinoa, corn, rice)
Suppose you’re diagnosed with celiac disease and you’re lactose intolerant. In that case, you may be advised to strictly follow a diet that’s free of gluten and milk-based dairy products. You may want to include some easy-to-cook gluten-free foods in your home meal plans.
If you’re not into cooking, there are also gluten-free convenience foods that you can try such as:
- Frozen meals
- Chicken Patties
- Frozen foods
- Bread, and crackers
- Gluten-free grains
Here’s a quick tip: Read the labels or ask someone in the store to ensure you’re buying gluten-free products.
May Help Aid In Weight Loss
Some nutritionists claim that if you choose to have a gluten-free diet, you consume fewer calories, which may help you lose weight. Although weight loss due to eliminating gluten isn’t proven yet, this shift of diet gets rid of the junk food in your system and lowers your calorie intake, thereby leading to weight loss. Remember that the limitation of calories is still the key to weight loss; don’t rely solely on weight loss fad that features a gluten-free diet.
May Improve Energy Levels
Some claim that a gluten-free diet increases one’s energy levels. The claims are based on consuming more vegetables and fruits rather than high-fat processed and high-calorie food.
Gluten causes damage to the gut of people who can’t tolerate it. As a result, they often experience ‘brain fog’ or feel tired and lethargic. These are believed to be caused by malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies. Hence, going gluten free is associated with boosted energy levels.
Here are the top gluten-free foods for that energy boost you might need:
- Nuts and seeds
- Leafy greens
- Dark chocolate
- Gluten-free grains
- Sweet potatoes
Cons Of A Gluten-Free Diet
While going gluten free has become a diet trend, you may also want to know the downside of cutting gluten from your diet. Check out the following cons:
Reduced Carb Intake
Many dieters think of carbs and grains, particularly wheat, as an enemy. So, they opt for a low-carb diet without thinking of the amount of carbohydrates a human body may need.
The reality is, you need carbs to fuel your body’s strength and energy. Therefore, when you’re engaging in a gluten-free diet, you might not realize that you’re already depriving your body of what it needs—carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates in vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes are essential as they give nutrition to the body. However, the most critical thing to track is your total carbohydrate intake; hence, moderation in consumption is always the key.
Possible Weight Gain
Many people may assume that a gluten-free diet is a new weight loss diet trend because it’s associated with low-carb intake. You should also understand that a gluten-free diet only eliminates certain grains from your meal—wheat, barley, rye, etc. But this doesn’t mean that you’ll lose weight, especially if you don’t watch the calories of the food you consume.
Even if you stuff your diet with gluten-free meal replacements such as cakes, bread, cookies, cereals, etc., you may not lose much weight due to the high calories present in these foods. Note that other gluten-free products have fats mixed with them and added sugar to substitute for flour. For better results, once you start your gluten-free diet, you may want to decrease your consumption of processed foods and eat more vegetables and fruits instead.
Digestive Issues Due To Lack Of Fiber
Many people who are on a gluten-free diet find it challenging to get enough fiber from food. Fiber is essential in improving bowel function, lowering blood cholesterol, and improving blood glucose control. The lack of fiber may lead to digestive issues.
The gluten-free flour used to make pasta, bread, and baked goods are highly refined and low in fiber. Some products contain added sugar and fat to compensate for gluten. If you want to boost your fiber intake, aim to eat more fruits and vegetables rich in fiber as well as gluten-free whole grain products.
There are many benefits associated with a gluten-free diet; it may help with nutrient absorption, aid in weight loss, improve energy levels, and reduce inflammation in the body. It isn’t compelled for all, but if you’re living with celiac disease, going gluten free is essential and good for your health as it helps reduce chronic inflammation and alleviate other digestive symptoms you may be experiencing. When going gluten free, you have to ensure that you’d still maintain a balanced and healthy diet without sacrificing essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, and fiber.