Gluten-free diets are becoming popular with the increasing gluten intolerance in people. Gluten intolerance is the body’s inability to break down gluten protein found in food sources like wheat, barley and rye.
The main reason people try out gluten diets is because of gluten intolerance conditions like celiac disease. However, some people try it for a healthy living whereas others in efforts of losing weight.
Let us get started. To begin with;
What exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a group or what you may call a family of storage proteins formally known as prolamins that are naturally found in certain cereal grains like wheat, barley, and rye.
These prolamins are further classified based on the specific grains from which they are found.
For example, glutenins and gliadins are prolamins found in wheat, in rye there are secalins and hordeins found in barley.
Glutens form the soft chewy texture in grain-based foods.
Gluten proteins form an elastic network that stretches and traps gas allowing leavening, rising and maintenance of moisture in the bread, pasta, and other similar foods.
Gluten proteins also form a sticky network when flour is mixed with water, it is this glue-like ability that makes dough elastic and the ability to rise when baked.
These abilities make gluten a good additive to improve texture and promote moisture retention in a variety of processed foods.
What are the foods that contain gluten?
Gluten is often used as a thickener in food production and therefore it can be found in many foods.
Gluten is found in various whole and processed foods which include;
In grains, gluten is found in
Whole wheat, wheat bran, barley, couscous, rye, barley, spelt, farro, Kamut, semolina, bulgur, durum, wheat germ, cracked wheat, matzo, einkorn, and farina.
Processed grain-based products.
Crackers, pasta, bread, pastries, cookies, breadcrumbs, seitan.
Other foods and beverages.
Barley malt, malt vinegar, sauces or gravies thickened with flour, flavored chips, beer, soy sauce, some certain salad dressings, broths.
Why gluten is bad for you?
Gluten is safe and beneficial to most people but to some, it’s the opposite. This is due to certain medical conditions that make gluten bad for some people ‘s health.
Also known as gluten sensitivity, it is a body’s inability to digest or breakdown gluten proteins. It ranges from a mild sensitivity to gluten celiac disease.
Here are the situations or health risks which make gluten bad for you;
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which a person’s immune system attacks the cells in the small intestines when gluten is being digested.
It affects approximately 1% of the global population.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
This is a condition that describes negative symptoms that are resolved when gluten is eliminated from people’s diets who don’t test positive for celiac disease or wheat allergy.
Though it is not true gluten intolerance, it is a closely related condition.
Wheat allergies are intolerant to wheat itself and not just gluten protein. This means that people with a wheat allergy must avoid wheat but can safely consume other gluten sources apart from wheat sources of barley or rye.
A gluten-free diet means avoiding gluten food sources. It is essential for people with gluten allergies and celiac disease.
While on a gluten-free diet, below are some of the foods you can eat.
- Seeds :
- Legumes: groundnuts, peas.
- Dairy products: milk, meat, cheese.
- Oil: olive oil, vegetable oil.
- All kinds of fish like salmon, tuna, tilapia
Many grain food sources are also gluten-free.
While shopping for a gluten-free diet, look out for the gluten-free label. This comes on processed products in various countries.
These labels that were implemented by government health authorities make gluten elimination much easier.
However, labels don’t actually mean the products are completely gluten-free but gluten is less than 20 parts per million.
In the European Union, the United States and Canada, a product carrying a gluten-free label has to have fewer than 20 parts per million of the product. This means that for every million parts of the food, gluten makes only 20 of them.
In some countries however, the limit is set to as low as 3 parts per million.
What are the foods you should avoid while on the gluten-free diet
Gluten is mainly found in wheat, rye and barley. Try to avoid all related products of wheat, rye or barley. Examples include
Wheat is commonly found in these foods so is gluten;
- Salad dressings.
- Baked foods
Barley is also another gluten source in products like;
- Brewer’s yeast.
Foods with gluten that are made ou of rye include;
- Rye bread
- Rye beer
Is the gluten-free diet good for weight loss?
Without risks or diseases like celiac disease, some people may choose to do the gluten-free diet for weight loss.
The question comes up, does the gluten-free diet help with weight loss? Straight to the answer, No! The gluten-free diet does not directly help with losing weight.
If you happen to see someone who claims to have lost weight while on the gluten-free diet, it is a result of careful eating, exercise, and elimination of empty calorie foods like white bread.
Ways the gluten-free diet can help with weight loss are as follows.
Most of the baked foods from wheat or barley have large quantities of sugar and plenty of calories. Cakes, white bread, and other pastries can cause weight gain due to the large quantity of sugar present as well as calories. Therefore, limiting gluten-related foods will save you from eating these high calories and sugar products.
Restricting some foods from your diet will make you opt for healthier foods like fruits and vegetables which increase weight loss chances. You will be able to avoid junk foods like pizza, hamburgers since they have gluten in them.
Does a gluten-free diet make you fat?
Some people on a gluten-free diet end up gaining weight other than losing it. They tend to consume gluten-free packaged products that are high in saturated fats, calories, sugars and other junk foods that can cause weight gain.
The fiber found in many whole gluten food sources helps with weight loss in various ways. However the elimination of fiber found sources makes the food less filling and satisfying making you eat frequently thus exceeding the calorie intake leading to weight gain.
Benefits of a gluten-free diet.
A gluten-free diet has health benefits like below;
May reduce the risk of chronic inflammation.
In people with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet can help reduce chronic inflammation. It can help treat gut damage that is caused by gluten-related inflammation.
The gluten diet also lowers the risk of inflammation to people without celiac disease.
It can boost energy.
People suffering from celiac disease often tend to feel tired and sluggish.
Therefore switching to a gluten-free diet may help to boost energy levels in the body.
May help to lose weight.
While on a gluten-free diet, you will be able to cut many junk foods and pastries that are full of calories out of your diet. While on the gluten-free diet you will be able to choose healthier foods like fruits and vegetables that are weight loss friendly.
However, it is also important to avoid gluten-free junk foods and pastries to achieve weight loss.
Relief of digestive problems.
People with celiac disease often tend to have digestive conditions like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas and many others.
Trying a gluten-free diet helps to help ease digestion in people with gluten intolerance.
However, the gluten-free diet has negative effects too and they include;
People on gluten-free diets tend to choose more processed foods labeled gluten-free over fruits and vegetables. This makes them miss important food nutrients that they would have got from gluten food sources as well as fruits and veggies.
Constipation is very common in people on a gluten-free diet. This is because the gluten-free diet eliminates many fiber food sources like bread and other wheat-based products. This increases the chances of constipation since even the gluten-free substitutes are low in fiber.
It can make socializing difficult.
Cutting out gluten food sources will make hanging out and eating out difficult. While socializing you have to make plans beforehand which might be an inconvenience to either you or your hosts.
Different restaurants also offer gluten-free diets but chances of contamination are high.
The bottom line
The gluten-free diet is in most cases followed by people with gluten intolerance like those with Celia disease. However, some people follow the gluten-free diet for healthy eating and some for weight loss which is however not very effective.
If you are gluten tolerant, it doesn’t cause any harm to you. However, for weight loss, you should be selective of the gluten food sources you eat.
Eating whole foods food sources rather than refined plays a more health role in your diet. Choose whole-grain such as buckwheat, quinoa, whole barley, and others.
For weight loss, the gluten-free will may not deliver quick results but you can read these articles below about effective weight loss diets.
What is a paleo diet? pros and cons.
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