Gluten-free: a game-changer? BESTFIT’s Kirsty McEnroe isn’t sure…
These days, you can’t go a day without hearing about the term ‘gluten-free’. Most of us have no idea what it means. So, is it just a fad? Or is it something we should be embracing?
Recently, Miley Cyrus claimed on Twitter that her gluten-free diet resulted in her dramatic weight loss. In truth, this was probably the result of clean eating and regular exercise, but she’s not alone in singing its praises. Long Jump World Champ Greg Rutherford is one of a handful of athletes – Novak Djokovic included – to praise the virtues of going gluten-free. Gluten is blamed for many ailments including headaches, poor immunity, hormonal imbalances’ and even behavioural problems in kids. It has even been viewed as a toxic substance with no place in a healthy diet, but is this true?
Gluten exists in all types of wheat, processed oats and any foods made up of grains. It’s found in most foods with a desirable texture, like white bread, basically anything with an elasticity and chewy texture. It’s also found in ice cream, ketchup, salad dressings, products where it is used as a thickener. Gluten is cheap and rich in proteins, so it’s also found in processed fatty foods and restaurants. That doesn’t necessarily mean that gluten is bad for you, but if trying to avoid, it can be hard.
It’s important to note that you can’t be allergic to gluten. Those who have difficulty digesting it may have either a condition called celiac disease, which means an immune response to gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Probably, yes! It’s highly likely that by going ‘gluten-free’ you are eliminating fast food and other processed foods high in fat and which have poor nutritional value. That has to be a good thing. You will most likely be cooking fresher food and eating more fruit and vegetables, therefore these dietary changes will result in healthier outcomes. I am definitely seeing more clients who don’t need to be gluten free, but who follow the diet because it’s deemed to be healthier. However, by doing so, they’re missing out on important whole grains. And this is where it becomes a bit of a grey area.
Science is yet to offer compelling evidence to support going gluten-free. Instead, I suggest you stick to a balanced diet and limit the amount of processed foods you eat, and you will be healthier. Removing gluten entirely from your diet can cut whole grains, which therefore remove important vitamins, minerals and fibre from the diet and essential micronutrients.
The topic of ‘gluten free’ is everywhere, but what comes with that is a lot of misleading information. The best thing to do, if you think you may have a gluten intolerance, is to seek professional advice and find out for sure.