Throughout the years, we’ve seen many diet trends come and go…grapefruit diets, liquid cleanses, cabbage soup diets, etc., but there is always a newer, more “effective” weight loss idea waiting in the wings. So, who’s the new kid on the block today? Just as going low-fat or low-carb had its time in the limelight, it seems like the new fad and trend is to go gluten-free. Marketers have seriously tapped into this new diet trend and we now see a slew of gluten-free products and items lining the grocery shelves. So, is this strategy really the best way to lose weight? Let’s take a closer look at the newest diet trend.
To begin with, let’s first discuss what gluten is NOT. Gluten is not a grain in and of itself, but is a molecular component of very specific grains. Gluten is actually a protein and is most commonly found in wheat, rye and barley. Since most breads, cereals, crackers, pastas and many packaged snacks all contain either wheat, rye or barley, these foods are all gluten-containing foods. However, there are many whole grains and grain-like seeds that do not contain gluten such as wild brown rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, and some oats.
So, is there any advantage in going gluten-free? There is a small percentage of people (less than 1% in the United States) that must avoid all gluten because they suffer from an auto-immune disease called Celiac Disease, the exact cause of which remaining unknown. The lining of the intestines contain areas called villi, which help absorb nutrients. When Celiacs eat foods or use products that contain gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging these villi. This damage affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients properly, thereby rendering a person malnourished, no matter how much food he or she eats. Most Celiacs suffer from seriously painful and uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues upon eating gluten, as well as significant vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
A greater percentage of people are not walking around with Celiac Disease but have a moderate to severe intolerance to gluten whereby their digestive system simply cannot process the gluten protein causing symptoms such as gas, bloating, and digestive difficulty. Another problematic side effect of gluten intolerance is the inability to lose unwanted fat off your body (as a result of internal inflammation) making it extremely difficult to even lose a few stubborn pounds. Yes, people can see dramatic change in their health and weight loss efforts when taking some time away from gluten, however, simply going gluten-free is not your quick fix solution to weight-loss and there are a number of folks who consume gluten-based products with no negative impact to their weight-loss efforts whatsoever.
However, if you are otherwise maintaining a relatively clean diet and are still unable to drop those extra pounds and/or are suffering from various gastrointestinal issues, then you might want to nix the gluten for a period of time. Here is a simple approach if you think gluten just may be the culprit in your struggle to lose those unwanted pounds.
- If you are experiencing abdominal pain, bloating, gas, indigestion, diarrhea and/or alternating constipation, it would be well worth a try to go gluten-free for a minimum of 2 weeks. This means avoiding breads (even whole-wheat), cereals, crackers, pasta and processed snacks (most of which you should be avoiding anyway if you maintain an anti-inflammatory diet.)
- Be mindful of the fact that many alcohols and spirits are made from gluten-based grains (whiskey, bourbon, gin and rye are definitely off the list, since they are made with rye and barley). Beer, too, must be avoided, since malt (usually from barley) is an ingredient. Even rice beers use malt. Be very leery of grain alcohols, as well, as although some say the gluten peptide cannot pass through the distillation process, others note that upon consumption, digestive issues occur.
- Get creative and try new recipes focusing on proteins, vegetables, fruits and whole grains and seeds like brown rice, quinoa and millet. The choices are endless and your meals do not have to include bread or pasta to be super delicious. There are also a few brown rice pasta alternatives that you may want to try and don’t leave out the infamous spaghetti squash!
- Be careful and weary of most “Gluten-Free” products! Most of these products do more harm than good and can stall and/or prevent weight loss. Most of these pre-packaged items still fall under the “processed food” category and can contain other harmful ingredients such as processed soy and corn, sugars and other additives and binders.
Fundamentally, I avoid most gluten-based products. For the longest time, I truly suffered every time I ate a piece of bread, even whole-wheat. Once I cut out the gluten and reintroduced other unprocessed whole grains and grain-like items into my diet, I felt so much better and I lost those few stubborn pounds, as well! Remember that the majority of our food should be composed of raw vegetables and fruits, good fats, nuts and seeds, lean proteins, fatty fish and whole grains such as brown rice, steel-cut oatmeal and quinoa as well as plenty of fresh, clean water!
Nourish yourself from the inside out and you will feel and look amazing!
- Would You Go Gluten-Free in the Name of Beauty? (bellasugar.com)
- Gluten-Free. Hype or not? (inmamaskitchen.wordpress.com)
- Several Gluten-Free Desserts You Should not Ignore (10poundsin10days.wordpress.com)