When it comes to nutrition, health, and weight there seems to be a new 'buzz" word every 5 to 10 years. Food companies and the media will tout this buzz" word as the "magic ingredient" to avoid if weight loss is your goal. In the early 1990's we were told to slash the fat. People everywhere were joining the FAT FREE crazy, eating fat free cheese, candy, cakes, ice cream, salad dressing and butter tying their hopes to lose weight. Then around the turn of the century, a new weight loss craze appeared..."Cut the Carbs". Consumers were told to liberally eat bacon, mayo, butter, heavy whipping cream, and full fat dressing, for the "fat" was not the problem, but it was now the carbohydrates. The current craze we are now told is it is not the "FAT" or the "CARBS", that continue to pack on the pounds, but it's the "GLUTEN". Once again marketers and food manufactures have joined the bank wagon to promote and market gluten free food to consumers as the "magical ingredient" to slash weight? The important thing is to get educated on what food you are putting in your body, gluten free or not.
Gluten Free Diet: 101
What is a gluten free diet?
A gluten free diet is a diet free of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malts, oats, kamut, and spelt. It is also a food additive and commonly used as “dextrin”.
Who needs to follow a gluten free diet?
Gluten free diets were designed for people who have Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 133 Americans. Symptoms of Celiac disease can include: diarrhea, weight loss, weakness, bone pain, malnutrition, and abdominal bloating. If you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, it is very important to follow a strict gluten free diet.
There are some people who do not have Celiac disease but instead have a sensitivity to wheat. Having a sensitivity to wheat is usually not as acute or severe as having Celiac disease and can be harder to diagnose because the symptoms may not appear for a few hours or even days after the wheat product was consumed. Avoiding wheat products is the primary approach to dealing with wheat sensitivities. Unlike Celiac disease or a food allergy, if someone has a wheat intolerance they may be able to build up a tolerance for a small amount of wheat over time.
Gluten Free, Weight Loss, and Your Health:
Today it is “trendy” to follow a gluten free nutrition plan and we as consumers are marketed a wide variety of “gluten free” foods. There definitely can be some benefits of eating less gluten. First of all, when you go gluten free one does eliminate many packaged and processed foods. Also, by eliminating these packaged foods one is more likely to consume more fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, as well as lean sources of protein. This is one principle that most nutrition and health professionals can agree on!
However, just because a food product is labeled and marketed as gluten free does not mean it is HEALTHIER than the gluten alternative. Many gluten free products are actually very calorie dense and when it comes to weight loss one still needs to watch overall calorie intake. Also, many gluten free products are made with rice or corn flour, and are not fortified or enriched and contain smaller amounts of folate, iron, and fiber than foods that are traditionally made with whole wheat flour.
The bottom line is that if you do suspect you may have Celiac disease, an allergy to wheat, or have a wheat sensitivity, then talk with your doctor and nutritionist to make the correct diagnosis. With any type of medical condition it is important to follow the correct diet protocols for proper treatment and recovery. If you are following a gluten free diet because you have heard it can help you lose those stubborn pounds, make sure to consult with your registered dietitian. A registered dietitian can help you create a custom meal plan that takes into account your food preferences, medical history, and goals.
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