Should Your Family Go Gluten Free?

By Jenni Purcell

I am a Registered Dietitian, and I get frustrated sometimes with the latest news and trends concerning food and diet. I know if I am frustrated then the public must have surrendered and thrown their arms up a long time ago! Can anyone really keep up with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ diets? What’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ this year? It’s hard to keep up! And who should consumers believe? First it was Fat Free, and then it was Carb Free, now it is Gluten Free.

Let’s discuss this latest trend: gluten-free. I am guessing the majority of people couldn’t point out gluten in a line up, yet they have heard they need to stay away from it. So what is a gluten-free diet? It’s a diet that does not include the protein found in wheat, rye and barley. This protein is gluten.  It is a medically prescribed diet for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

So what is Celiac Disease? Celiac disease is an auto immune disease that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents people from properly absorbing and digesting foods with gluten. This makes it hard for your body to absorb nutrients that keep you healthy.  Celiac disease has become more prevalent in the United States and thus increased awareness about gluten-free foods. You’ve probably seen advertisements for gluten free products and more and more labeling on packaged foods in the supermarket.

Some advocates are saying gluten free is the way to go. This is leaving many wondering if it’s a necessary step for a healthy lifestyle. Should you really cut out gluten for health and weight loss, even if you don’t have a problem digesting it? 

The answer is NO.  Unless you have celiac disease, choosing only gluten-free foods is not necessarily going to benefit you. If you feel that you may have intolerance to gluten it is a good idea to get tested by your doctor.  This will help you discover if you have sensitivity to gluten or have celiac disease. If you do get tested, do not cut out gluten from your diet until the test has been completed.  (Doing so will throw off the validity of the test.)  If you do have celiac disease or sensitivity, you will get relief from symptoms by eating a gluten free diet.

Some other reasons why you should not just eat gluten-free for weight loss or for the heck of it: There is a risk of becoming nutrient deficient, and it doesn’t guarantee weight loss.

Rule of thumb for trending nutrition fads and diets: It’s the same old stuff you have been hearing for years.  Eat in moderation, eat from all the food groups and get 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Easy as pie ;)!

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