Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gluten Free is NOT a diet if you do not have a gluten allergy

Ok let me just set the record straight ...I have heard over and over again 'I am on the gluten free diet.' - well why?  Do you have Celiac disease - a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye?  'Well no'.  Do you have gluten intolerance - just like lactose intolerance but with symptoms similar to that of celiac disease without having the actual disease - vomiting, bloating, gas, diarrhea and in some cases, anaphylactic shock?  'Well no!'  Well then why are you eating a gluten free diet?  Because it is NOT a diet.

This is the most important thing to understand about 'gluten-free' THERE IS NO BENEFIT TO EATING GLUTEN FREE UNLESS YOU HAVE A GLUTEN ALLERGY OR INTOLERANCE. 

Gluten is a protein composite that appears in foods processed from wheat and related species, including barley and rye.  It gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture.  Gluten is a stabilizing agent in foods like ketchup, ice cream, marinades and salad dressings. 

Because of celiac disease (which I have) and gluten intolerance, people have to give up wheat products: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pita, whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat pasta - all whole grains that are part of a healthy, low fat and low calorie lifestyle.  Whole grains are essential for anyone trying to shed pounds and stay energized through workouts due to their slow burn digestion in your body.  Cutting these out of the diet is extremely difficult....but not impossible.  But it is pointless for someone without an allergy to cut them out of their diet.

Many people think that 'gluten free' equals 'carb free' which is not the case.  And furthermore - one should NEVER cut carbs out of their diet as your body can go into ketosis putting strain on the liver and ...when you start eating carbohydrates again - you will put weight back on. 

There are scads of gluten free products out there - gluten free cereal, pasta, pizza, crackers, cookies, cakes...but they all still have to have some form of carbohydrate in them so alternatives are used.  The alternatives include tapioca flour, rice flour (both white and brown), coconut flour, corn  - to name a few.  Many of these forms of carbohydrates are higher in calories and fat content than wheat products.  Just pick up a gluten free pizza crust at the store and look at the label -it contains double the amount of calories and fat than a whole wheat crust. 

Many of my clients who have celiac or gluten intolerance ask me if it is ok to eat gluten free cookies, pizza, crackers, pretzels and snack foods.  Well NO if you are trying to lose weight, put on lean muscle and get healthy.  These are STILL junk foods - they just have a different source of carbohydrate in them and still contain sugar and even MORE fat than usual!  Gluten free does not equal healthy.

Those living with celiac and gluten intolerance can still live a healthy lifestyle, shed weight, put on muscle, compete in fitness shows, run marathons...etc.  The right  foods must be selected though.  Complex carbohydrates must come from whole grain sources such as brown rice, brown rice flour, brown rice pasta, quinoa, gluten-free oats, sweet potato's, etc.  Protein sources should be purchased raw as many pre-cooked meats and pre-marinated meats contain gluten (and too much sodium at that).  Lots of fruits and veggies and minimal if not any processed foods at all.  This is the same diet I would put a regular client on who wanted to lose weight however the whole grain sources would include wheat products.

So if you think going gluten free is the newest diet craze, and that because Oprah went gluten free as part of a cleanse recently means you should also go gluten free...please save yourself the trouble and the day to day hardship those of us with gluten allergies must deal with when we cannot have healthy, low cal, energy sustaining whole wheat products.  Keep eating your wheaties :-)

In health,

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