Gluten free diets have come into prominence in the recent years, spurred on by celebrity testimonials and various health benefit claims. But what’s behind all the hype? What exactly is a gluten free diet? What are it’s pros and cons? Is it right for you and, if so, how can you get started? The answers are rather simple after a bit of research, so read on to find out more.
What Is A Gluten Free Diet?
Just as it sounds, a gluten free diet is one that does not contain gluten. Gluten is a combination of proteins that is often found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. This means that any bread, beer, or other food that contains these grains (and a few others) cannot be consumed while on the diet.
Not all grains and starches have gluten. Foods such as rice, corn, buckwheat, potatoes, and quinoa don’t contain gluten so any flours (and the breads they make) can be eaten while on a gluten free diet. Oats also do not contain gluten, but because they are so often handles by processing plants that also process wheat there is a chance of cross-contamination.
Benefits Of A Gluten Free Diet:
Gluten free diets started as a recommended diet to relieve the symptoms of celiac disease. Whenever someone with celiac disease eats gluten, white blood cells attack the small intestine. This damages the nutrient-absorbing tissues, called villi, that reside there. Without these tissues the body cannot absorb nutrients from food no matter how much they eat or the quality of food they eat. Because of this, gluten free diets are necessary to live a healthy life. Celiac disease is not rare but is underdiagnosed. It is believed that 83 percent of people who have this disease don’t know it.
Other people that benefit from a gluten free diet are those with wheat allergies. Like any allergy, wheat allergies can cause swelling, redness, and rash if those with the allergy come into contact with their allergen. This is a much rarer disorder than celiac disease, yet there are reportedly more sufferers.
There is also a third set of people that benefit from a gluten free diet. However, research is still being conducted to find out what is affecting these people or how they should be categorized medically. Unlike celiac disease and wheat allergy, those in this third category have less of a reaction to gluten and wheat products. Symptoms include bloating, intestinal distress, and abdominal pain whenever gluten is consumed. These people have reported much happier and healthier lives by cutting gluten from their diet.
If you have celiac disease, wheat allergy, or suffer from gastrointestinal problems whenever you eat bread or other gluten containing foods, then a gluten free diet may benefit you.
Cons Of A Gluten Free Diet:
Unless you fall into the three categories above, a gluten free diet may not be for you. While it is true that breads, pastas, and other food items made with gluten-containing grains are high in carbohydrates and that a diet high in carbohydrates may lead to weight gain, there is no need to completely avoid gluten. Simply, cutting back on bread and baked goods is enough if you simply want to lose weight or eat a more rounded diet. There have even been reports of people gaining weight when eating a gluten free diet.
Like all diets, a gluten free diet is difficult to transition into. Your body will start to crave foods high in carbohydrates, many of which contain gluten. Bread, crackers, pastries, you’ll start to crave them all. You may even give in to temptation every once in a while. However, with persistence, resilience, and a little discipline a gluten free diet will soon be a natural part of your life.
Once a gluten free diet is part of your everyday routine, the hardest part will be sticking to gluten free foods, not because you’ll be craving them, but because gluten is found everywhere in our modern society. Gluten can be found in candies, sauces, processed lunch meats, snack food, and salad dressings. To maintain a gluten free diet, it is important to read the ingredients on food packaging and, if necessary, look for a “gluten-free” label. If a food packaging has that label then the FDA requires it to have less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Also keep in mind that food labeled “wheat-free” may still have gluten in them.
How To Get Started With Gluten Free Diet As Newbie?
If you believe a gluten free diet is right for you, and you have discussed it with your doctor, then starting requires a little discipline. If you have celiac disease or a wheat allergy, then it’s time to go cold turkey. Avoid any grains-containing foods like bread, beer, cakes, pies, and cereals. Also be wary of any processed foods or foods that come in sealed packages or cans. Though they may not contain grains, they may have preservatives or seasonings that might contain gluten. Always look out for a “gluten-free” label.
Remember that not all grains contain gluten. Rice, cornmeal, flax, and arrowroot flours don’t contain any gluten, so if you are really craving bread then look for bread made with gluten-free flours. Many grocery stores carry these types of bread.
If you are not in serious medical need for a diet, then you can slowly restrict your consumption of gluten. By easing into the diet, it may be easier for you to grow accustomed to living this lifestyle.
Want to know more about different other diets? Here are some very detailed guides about all the famous diet systems to help you choose which one suits you well.
Gluten free diets aren’t for everyone, but there is a great amount of scientific evidence that shows that many people could benefit from this diet. If you get stomachaches, abdominal pains, diarrhea, or upset stomach whenever you eat bread or other grain products, then it is likely that a gluten free diet is for you. However, if your goal is simply to lose weight or eat healthier though you suffer no problems from the consumption of grain, then simply limiting the amount of carbohydrates you eat will be enough to reach both of these goals.
Whatever you decide, good luck and happy eating.