Gluten is a hot topic lately. Everywhere we go right now we are bombarded with gluten free this and that, gluten free alternatives at restaurants, and it seems like everyone we know is on a “gluten free diet.” So what is the deal? Are us gluten eaters missing out on some secret weight loss tool and are we sabotaging ourselves with each slice of bread or wheat cracker?
Let’s first clarify exactly what gluten is, where it comes from and what foods contain it. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, it is often what gives bread its spongy texture and gives wheat the ability to rise. When buying anything made with wheat assume there is gluten in it, and I challenge you to find any packaged food out there not made with wheat these days.
Here are a few examples so you can know the difference when shopping:
Cakes, cookies and pastries
Corn or corn products (popcorn, corn tortillas)
Organic or steel cut oats (be careful here, check labels)
* Do not automatically assume that “wheat free” on a package means gluten free, there could still be some lingering barley or rye
I am not going to say that gluten is necessarily bad for you, however I do think that too much wheat is. Many digestive problems including gas and bloating can be traced back to excess wheat in the diet. Those that feel discomfort after eating wheat should discuss this with a doctor rather than self-diagnosing any kind of intolerance or disease. In general Americans these days consume far too much wheat and not enough lean meat and fresh produce.
With that being said, I try to educate the importance of Whole Grains, as opposed to whole wheat. With grains you can assume that the fiber, bran and germ are still attached to the grain, providing you with the best nutrition, whereas wheat products are often processed and stripped of all the good stuff like fiber. Now, these whole grains can contain gluten and also be healthy for you, see what I’m saying? No gluten-containing or gluten-free diet is healthier than the other, it is all about making healthy choices no matter what you eat.
Those that are on a gluten free diet are no healthier than or weigh less than anyone else, but do keep in mind that gluten free packaged foods like crackers, cookies or snacks contain no real nutrition and should be avoided. Instead choose fruits, veggies, lean protein and healthy whole grains like quinoa or brown rice to fill up on and nourish the body. This would be considered gluten free, and the healthy way of doing it. If you want to eat a diet similar with the occasional bread slice or bowl of shredded wheat, go right ahead, you are still eating healthy!