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Going gluten-free is the latest health fad designed to help you lose weight. But what is gluten? And is it bad for you, or is it just another diet myth? Here we explain all you need to know about gluten and whether you need to avoid it or not in order to achieve the best weight loss results.
Many people exclude gluten from their diet without even knowing what it is, incorrectly thinking that gluten and carbohydrates like bread and pasta are synonymous, but that’s not the case. Gluten refers to the proteins in seeds which are ground to make flour. Gluten both nourishes plant embryos during germination and later affects the elasticity of dough, which in turn affects the chewiness of baked wheat products. Gluten is composed of two different proteins: gliadin (a prolamin protein) and glutenin (a glutelin protein). Although ‘true gluten’ is sometimes defined as being specific to wheat, gluten is often said to be part of other cereal grains – including barley, rye, and various crossbreeds – because these grains also contain protein composites made from prolamins and glutelins.
The short answer is no, but some people are gluten-intolerant, meaning that their bodies produce an abnormal immune response when it tries to break down gluten from wheat and related grains during digestion. The most well-known and most serious gluten intolerance is celiac disease, which is thought to affect less than 5% of the US population. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it triggers a response which damages their intestines, preventing them from absorbing vital nutrients from food. It is also possible to suffer from a wheat allergy, a rare type of gluten intolerance that presents itself with rashes, breathing problems, or gastrointestinal reactions to wheat allergens. In these cases of gluten intolerance, doctors typically recommend a gluten-free diet. This means that patients must avoid eating any foods and ingredients which contain gluten, including bread, cookies, pastries, beer, fries, pasta, salad dressing, soy sauce and even some soups.
Recently, despite no evidence that gluten is bad for them, many Americans without these intolerances are cutting back on the amount of gluten in their diets or avoiding it altogether. People try gluten-free diets in response to feeling tired, bloated, or depressed, and find that reducing gluten correlates with feeling better or losing weight. But this outcome is more likely to be because they’ve cut out the excess calories found in the flour-based snack foods they used to eat, and mistakenly attribute feeling better to removing gluten from their diet. There's nothing magical about eliminating gluten that results in weight loss; what these people are doing is cutting down on cookies and cakes, which is obviously going to result in weight loss and feeling better.
If you do genuinely think that you have celiac or an intolerance then before you switch to a gluten-free diet, you should be evaluated by your family doctor, and a specialist who can determine if you have celiac disease. It may be that you have a wheat allergy in which case you should avoid wheat but can eat other grains, or a gluten sensitivity which means you may feel better when you eat fewer gluten-based products. But, these can only be determined by a doctor; an intestinal biopsy is the only way to detect celiac definitively, and the danger of self-diagnosing and taking gluten out of your diet prematurely is that you will never be able to get an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms.
If you just want to feel less bloated or lose weight, you may think that cutting out gluten could help, but a gluten-free diet can be unhealthy if it’s not done properly. While swapping some of the grains on your plate for more veggies can be a good thing, people who switch to gluten-free processed products often mistakenly believe that gluten-free means better for you. By labelling their food as gluten-free, manufacturers try to make people think that their food is healthier than it is, but that’s really not the case. Whole grains which contain gluten, like whole grain pasta and bread, are a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. In contrast, gluten-free products, like the bread shown above, are often made with over-processed, refined grains. The corn and rice flours which are used in gluten-free products are lower in fiber and have been shown to produce greater spikes in blood sugar levels – meaning a sluggish metabolism and more cravings.
A gluten-free diet with these over-processed alternatives means that you’ll end up eating a lot of foods that are stripped of nutrients; studies show that gluten-free diets can be deficient in many essential weight loss nutrients, including fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc. Furthermore, gluten-free products can vary a great deal in the amount of saturated fat, and sugar they contain; in a recent study which compared 11 different gluten-free breads, some brands were found to have up to 13 times more fat than others! It’s also important to remember that processed foods are no less unhealthy if they don't contain gluten; a gluten-free cookie is not healthier than a cookie with gluten.
Although you can eat a healthy diet without gluten, you have to be very knowledgeable about what foods you should choose to replace the foods you’re avoiding. If your doctor has advised you to limit your intake of gluten due to celiac disease or a diagnosed sensitivity, then you should make sure to replace wheat with a healthy, naturally gluten-free grain, such as quinoa or buckwheat. You should also balance the diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and lean meat and low-fat dairy products such as yogurt are also good for a gluten-free diet.
However, if you don’t have an intolerance to gluten and you want to lose weight, then there’s no need to cut out gluten from your diet. A balanced diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, and lean meats plus a variety of grains and fiber-rich products like whole grain pasta and bread is the best way to lose weight - with no need to cut out affordable staples and swap them for over-priced and over-processed gluten-free foods. Of course, eating less of the donuts and cookies that contain gluten will definitely make you feel better and help you lose weight – but don´t just replace them with gluten-free versions! And lastly, remember that Phen Caps can help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite and allowing you to feel full with less food, meaning that cutting out those cakes and cookies will be a lot easier.
Have you tried to go gluten free? Let us know by commenting below!