Is a Gluten-Free Diet Right for You?

 In Health

Gluten-free foods are flooding the market, which is great for people with celiac disease—but many people have equated “gluten –free” with “healthy,” and that’s not always the case. According to Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, a registered dietitian at UCLA Health System, gluten is a protein found primarily in whole-grain wheat, rye, and barley. It pro-vides the body with protein to build and repair muscle tissue, or to manufacture other body proteins like hormones and enzymes.

People Who Should Not Participate

People who suffer from celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, but the number of people with the condition is relatively small (about 1 per-cent of the population). Other people may have trouble tolerating large amounts of gluten because it makes them fell bloated or gassy.

“Because gluten lurks not only in grain foods, but is also used as a stabilizer and thickener in lots of processed foods like salad dressings, frozen yogurt, and processed cold cuts, it could be that people fell better after they go gluten-free, whether they’re intolerant or not,” says Bowerman. “After all, they are cutting out fast foods and processed foods and possibly replacing starchy foods with healthy fruits and veggies, which would promote weight loss.”

People who do actually have celiac disease must pay close attention to what they eat. “They must avoid wheat, rye, and barley, as well as wheat ‘cousins’ kamut and spelt,” adds Bowerman. “And products made from these grains, such as bulgur, couscous, wheat germ, semolina, durum, and bran, are forbidden, too. Gluten might also be disguised on a label as vegetable protein, modified food starch, or malt flavoring, and it’s sometimes found in soy sauce and grain-based alcohol.”

Similarities with Other “Diets”

The latest fad. According to Bowerman, the recent influx of gluten-free products is very similar to the “low-carb fad” of several year ago. “Not wanting to miss an opportunity, the food manufacturers went full tilt and unleashed a torrent of low carb foods into the market—like candy bars, breads, cookies and cakes –all deemed suitable for carb-watchers,” she says. But, obviously , that backfired for people watching their weight because they were ignoring how many calories they ate. No matter what your reasons are for avoiding gluten, you still need to watch calories. “If, like the carb-counters of yesteryear, you’re paying attention only to your gluten intake a diet loaded with high-calorie gluten-free products could bring your weight loss to a screeching halt,” she warns.

Who Should Go Gluten Free

The argument for going gluten free. If you don’t have celiac disease, gluten in and of itself is not a bad thing. But there are people who make an argument for a gluten-free diet. “One argument for going gluten-free is that it’s a way to improve the diet, especially if refined grains have been the source of most of the gluten,” Bowerman Says.
“Replacing starch-heavy pastas, cakes, cookies, white bread, and pretzels with gluten-free whole grains like quinoa or millet is good advice for everyone.”

Source: UCLA HEALTHY/Years March 2014

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