Given the abundance of media articles citing gluten to be evil when it comes to food. You’d be forgiven for thinking that eating a gluten free diet automatically makes your diet healthier. But does it? And why are people making such claims?
Gluten is a type of protein. Unless you have Coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, it is not ‘bad’ for you. People with Coeliac disease are not able to consume any amount of gluten is whereas in gluten sensitivity, a small amount is tolerable. Though, much of the research is now indicating that for many individuals this may be wheat, rather than gluten, sensitivity.
Why doesn’t gluten free mean healthy?
Promotion of gluten free products as healthy is common, however somewhat incorrect. Gluten free products may still be loaded with sugar, unhealthy fat, or salt. Many processed GF products are particularly unhealthy. Also, some gluten free products do not have the fibre content, or are as nutrient dense as their gluten containing counterparts. When it comes down to it, a gluten free biscuit is still a biscuit, no matter how much you try to dress it up.
But does it matter if you eat gluten free when you don’t need to?
Sticking to strict a gluten free diet, all the time, unnecessarily is not recommended, due to the difficulties it can result in:
- Eating meals away from home can be challenging. That said, it is not impossible, and in recent years has become much easier with improved knowledge and awareness of the requirement of gluten free options.
- Travelling overseas can be even more challenging. Not all countries offer gluten free options as readily as we do in Australia.
- It can be very pricey. Specialty gluten free options often cost more.
- It may not taste as good. So regularly clients tell me how much they hate gluten free bread or wraps. They are often just not the same as the alternative. That said, naturally gluten free choices, such as quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat pancakes are fabulous!
- Recent research has shown that gluten containing grains may actually have more prebiotic fibres than their gluten containing counterparts, meaning a big negative for gut health if avoiding gluten unnecessarily.
However, for some people, choosing gluten free means they inadvertently reduce overall consumption of food as a whole, making weight management that much easier. Or maybe someone else in the house actually has Coeliac disease, so it is just easier to only have gluten free choices available.
But, does it matter if someone chooses to eat a gluten free diet if they don’t medically need to?
In general, choosing gluten free options that are nutritionally equivalent or superior some of the time, and healthy gluten containing products other times, and avoiding highly processed, unhealthy fat or high sugar options of gluten free OR gluten containing foods.
Making sensible choices, regardless of gluten content is the best way to go.