One of the latest crazes in health and nutrition is going gluten-free. So many products advertise the absence of gluten in their products, but what does that mean? Does being gluten-free make for a better diet? A lot of web buzz has pointed that eliminating gluten can aid in weight loss, prevents gut inflammation, prevents an “increased vulnerability to gut autoimmunity”, and prevents brain fog, according to www.paleoleap.com. While some people have gluten-sensitivities and allergies (stick around, we’ll outlines these below), gluten is safe for most people to eat. In fact, making an extra effort to eliminate gluten from your diet can result in vitamin and mineral deficits if too many foods are eliminated. Many of these buzz-based claims are not researched thoroughly and are not proven fact.

The Low Down on Gluten

What is gluten and where is it found?

Gluten is the term for the proteins found in wheat. Gluten is also found in other grains including barley, rye, durum, farro, spelt, farina, and einkorn. Bread, cereal and pasta are the most common gluten containing foods. Some food products use ingredients derived from gluten-containing grains for binding, thickening, and adding texture to foods. These foods include condiments, salad dressings, soups, and food colorings. Barley is used to make beer and malt, which means these foods also contain gluten.

 

Is gluten bad for me?

Some people have a gluten allergy, commonly known as Celiac disease. For this population, gluten can cause severe GI symptoms, such as diarrhea, abdominal cramping and vomiting, and damage to the gut flora due to an immune response.  Celiac disease is diagnosed by a blood test, showing the presence of antibodies, or further, a biopsy of the small intestinal gut flora, if needed. Previously, a non-celiac reaction to gluten was described as a gluten sensitivity. Current research has now classified a non-celiac gluten sensitivity as part of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) due to inability to clinically diagnose. For more information on gluten sensitivity, refer to the Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease.

 

What happens if I eat gluten-free?

A gluten free diet is generally not recommended for most healthy people without Celiac disease. Eliminating certain grains in the diet that contain gluten can result deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals. It is associated that omitting gluten can result in weight loss, however, it is rather the elimination of those calories in food is what actually leads to weight loss.

Many foods these days are advertised as gluten free and are marketed as healthy, such as gluten free cookies, pizza, desserts and even cooking oil. It is important to read these nutrition labels for fat, sugar and total calorie content to see if they fit in your diet.

 

Can I still eat healthy without gluten?

A healthful diet can still be obtainable for those with Celiac disease. Vitamin B6, thiamine, niacin, protein and carbohydrates are common nutrients found in wheat foods. Breads and pastas can be substituted with rice, corn products (like tortillas) and oats (if labeled gluten-free).  Including a variety of fruits and vegetable can also ensure a balanced, healthy diet.

 

Below is a list of gluten-free recipes from Nourished NCE. For more information on Celiac Disease, visit www.celiac.org

 

3 Ingredient Strawberry Sorbet

Quick Kale Almond Pesto

Berry-Nana Smoothie

Tropical Mango Salsa

Salt, Sodium & Sauces

Italian 3 Bean Salad

Refreshing Tabbouleh Salad

Grilled Balsamic Chicken Salad

Healthy Broccoli Salad

Spinach Artichoke Chicken

Quinoa Chili

Blackened Fish Tacos

3 Ingredient Carrot Fries

Garden Fresh Salsa

Simple Steamed Garlic Broccoli

Cilantro Brown Rice

Mother’s Day Spring Vegetable Frittata