Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s a strong, sticky, stretchy protein that helps wheat flour morph into many different foods such as al dente pasta, fluffy waffles, crisp pastries and chewy artisan bread. These unique properties are the reason it is commonly used in many foods and food products (there are few good substitutes).
Like most fads, the gluten-free trend will soon pass, just like everything else. What marketers of gluten-free products don’t want you to know is that greater than 93% of us aren’t even mildly affected by gluten. The extent of which gluten-free diets help people lose weight or become healthier is if those individuals cut out pizza, or other unhealthy foods made with gluten.
About 30% of Americans report following a gluten-free or –reduced diet. 55% who follow a gluten-free diet do so because they think it is “healthier” and 27% do so to lose weight. Accordingly, the gluten free market has skyrocketed from $11B to $23B in the last four years.
I recently saw a rather ridiculous advertisement for “gluten-free salt” and thought to myself… “What salt has ever had gluten? Wheat, rye and barley don’t grow in the ocean or 300 feet underground in a salt mine!”
The gluten-free fad has actually in many ways helped to undermine people’s health decisions since there are literally hundreds gluten-free varieties of junk food. Whether your doughnut is gluten-free or not, it’s still a doughnut.
Individuals who follow gluten-free diets typically have less than optimal intakes of many essential nutrients such as dietary fiber, iron, b-vitamins, calcium, and zinc. Insufficiency in these essential nutrients can easily lead health complications such as iron deficiency, osteoporosis and/or constipation.
Here’s who should be concerned about gluten:
- 1 in 133 individuals who have diagnosed Celiac disease, a genetic autoimmune disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.
- Less than 5% of the population who are gluten-sensitive (main symptoms are stomach discomfort and headaches).
- Those few individuals who have a wheat allergy.
The best way to lose weight and be healthy is to eat a balanced diet inclusive of whole grains. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov for more information on amount grains you should be consuming based on your age and gender.