Gluten-Free, Healthy Or Not?

First of all, what is Gluten? Gluten is a family of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. The name is fitting as it comes from the Latin word for “glue”, because when flour is mixed with water, it becomes sticky.   This glue-like property, helps gluten create a sticky network that gives the bread ability to rise when baked, as well as a chewy satisfying texture. 

Gluten free is often viewed as a healthier diet and is defiantly desired or needed for people who are gluten sensitive or who have celiac disease.  Gluten sensitive people may experience a rash or other allergy type symptom, and limiting or avoiding gluten can help.  People with celiac disease trigger an immune reaction when gluten is eaten.  They develop inflammation and damage in their intestinal tracts as well as other parts of their body.  So, for these individuals’ gluten must be avoided.  

But if you don’t suffer from any of these conditions, is it really better?   

10 years ago, the gluten free craze came about, with movie stars as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jenny McCarthy praising it.  There were studies claiming significant health benefits and weight loss, where people were experiencing these positive outcomes.  But is the hype all really true?  Not so much anymore.  The reason is, at that time the big marketing food gurus hadn’t quite caught on, so there weren’t really any gluten free products to buy.  This meant people were forced into eating a “cleaner” diet, consisting of non processed whole foods, to avoid gluten. Of course, when these non-nutrient dense foods are taken out and replaced with more nutrient dense foods – good things will happen.  However, look around today and there are a host of gluten free packaged, processed and baked goods everywhere, that are just as unhealthy as their gluten containing counterparts.

Foods that contain gluten, are actually more complete than their non gluten counterparts.  Gluten-free products are less fortified with folic acid, iron and other nutrients.  So, unless you are sensitive or have celiac disease, substituting out gluten, really may not give you the outcome you may expect.

Good health is just that, not some craze or product.  It is eating natural foods and an assortment of them.  Whole foods as in a variety of grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and seeds, are what it comes down too.  Going and buying a gluten free donut is not going to be any healthier than buying a regular donut.  A donut is a donut and it is still going to have high saturated fat and sugar – gluten free or not. Sadly, gluten-free products tend to have even more sugar, saturated fat and less fiber than gluten containing products.  Several studies now are finding a trend toward weight gain and obesity among those who follow a gluten-free diet (including those with celiac disease).  On top of this gluten free products also tend to be more expensive.  

The answer?  Don’t get fooled by big food marketers, movie stars or sports figures, that are paid well to get you to buy in!  No matter how you look at it, it always comes down to a balanced diet, adequate exercise and what is right for you and your body!

*If this article or any past articles leaves you with questions, the want to be a better you, the courage to take the first step to a happier you, than please contact me at: 

Mikkie Pollon (Nettles), Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic & Sports Nutritionist
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