Gluten-free has been a buzzword for quite some time now, and if you check the healthy-food aisles in grocery stores, you’ll see gluten free food standing right next to soy milk and green tea. Not to mention the numerous TV personalities, such as Ryan Gosling and Gwyneth Paltrow, praising and promoting it whenever they get the chance. In fact, a 2013 study showed that almost 30 percent of Americans are trying to eliminate gluten from their diet, which also led to restaurants adapting their menus to this new trend. That must mean that gluten free food is really healthy, right? Well, not quite. We’re here to find out if gluten free diet actually is good for everybody.
Breaking Down the Gluten Free Diet
Before we move on to its pros and cons, it’s important to understand what exactly gluten free diet is. It is, in majority of the cases, avoiding all foods that contain protein gluten. So, if you decide to switch to this way of nutrition, you won’t eat pasta, beer, candy, bread, pies, cakes, processed meat and soup. Following a gluten free diet means basing your nutrition on fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, fresh eggs, poultry, unprocessed beans, nuts, seeds, dairy products, etc. Also, there are gluten free alternatives to many of the protein-packed products that are part of a regular diet. This is great for the people who suffer from gluten sensitivity, but is there any scientific evidence that gluten is bad for the rest of us?
Blame It on Gluten
When gluten free diet “spokespeople” are talking about the harmful effects of gluten, they will always say that it’s bad for people with celiac, but that it also causes gut inflammation, increased intestinal permeability, wheat germ agglutinin (inflammatory protein), increased vulnerability to gut autoimmunity, autoimmune reactions in people with celiac, etc. Celiac disease which is the most severe form of gluten intolerance affects about 1 percent of the population, but there are people who are not suffering from this disease but are gluten sensitive.
In Defense of Gluten
Is gluten really the villain and gluten free the prince that saves the day? Well, as for celiac disease, gluten free diet isn’t enough to prevent common symptoms such as poor vitamin status, high inflammation and leaky gut. There is a need for removing the other dietary triggers contributing to the disease. For people not suffering any kind of gluten sensitivity, gluten may have some real benefits. Since it’s high in protein, and low in fat, it can be a great source of nutrients. Gluten is also high in iron, and it contains a number of other nutrients, such as calcium, without adding cholesterol to your diet.
Can Gluten Free Diet Be Bad for You?
Here’s the million dollar question: Is gluten free diet bad for you if you don’t suffer intolerance? Well, there is no concrete scientific evidence that it is actually good for you either, but the fact that some people suffer gluten intolerance, shouldn’t mean that all people must avoid this nutrient. Especially because the nutritious whole grains found in gluten rich food help with blood sugar regulation, weight management, cardiovascular diseases, cancer prevention, etc. Depriving your body of these important benefits, especially if you don’t have to, can prove to be harmful in the long run.
The Thing about Gluten Free Food
There’s one problem with gluten free food people rarely talk about. Besides plenty of natural foods that don’t contain gluten (e.g. fruits and vegetables), most of the alternatives being sold in grocery stores as “healthy foods” are highly processed, and devoid of many important nutrients. If we are constantly advising people not to eat refined sugars and processed foods, why would we tell them that processed gluten free foods are good?
To sum up; gluten free diet is good for people suffering celiac disease and other forms of gluten sensitivity, but that doesn’t mean that it is good for everyone.
By Ascension Lifestyle Contributor Roxana Oliver
Roxana is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant from Sydney and she loves to write about her adventures. She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family. Being a typical Aussie, she often hits the waves and loves beaches and sunshine! You can find out more about her writing following her on twitter and facebook. She is also one of the editors at Highstylife Magazine.