This is a collaborative post written in partnership with Catherine Lavinia.
I wrote yesterday about how I’m starting to consider a more dramatic change in my diet/fitness routine, and a lot of commenters seemed to be in the same boat. Everyone is trying to live healthier; let’s be honest, who hasn’t tried dieting? Often it starts when we head to a high school reunion or bump into an ex, where we impulsively start looking for the nearest gym and the best diet. Healthy food and sports become our mantra, and we start learning all about the nature of food, nutritional facts, food processing and its impact on our well-being.
But once you’re exposed to this hidden world of nutrition, you start to see food in a new light. Things that were once your favorites may now be foods you fear. The ins and outs of nutrition can be overwhelming – should you be counting calories? Making sure everything fits your macros? And with all the latest hype, you may wonder if your morning bagel or muffin are some of those foods you should demonize. “Oh my gosh, it contains gluten!” The popularity of “healthy” gluten-free food specialty products is skyrocketing… but what is so bad about gluten that makes sales of such products increase?
So first of all, a lot of people (including many of those actively avoiding gluten) don’t even know what gluten is. Check out this hilarious Jimmy Kimmel video:
Gluten isn’t a monster; it’s a macromolecule (protein) formed by two molecules, glutenin and gliadin. The main sources of gluten are wheat, rye and barley. Thanks to it, dough is elastic and bread has a chewy texture. However, for people suffering the autoimmune disorder Celiac disease, those yummy benefits might not be worth it. If a Celiac’s sufferer eats gluten, they might experience abdominal pain, anemia, diarrhea, fatigue and even skin rash. No fun! The only way out for gluten-sensitive people is to avoid gluten.
I will note that even for non-Celiac’s suffers, you may be surprised to learn that according to some studies, gluten may be addictive. (And this isn’t scientific, but I know that when I eat bread and pasta I want even more, Cookie Monster-style.) We’ve all heard about sugar addiction, but some research has found that there can be similarly addictive properties of gluten that make people crave wheat. Food for thought!
But addictive properties aside, gluten isn’t bad for you unless you suffer from the inability to process it. There are many people who adopt gluten-free diets even when they don’t have any kind of intolerance, but in fact this diet won’t be any healthier for you. Just as with the fat-free Snackwells craze of the 90s, there are tons of heavily processed products coming on the market that purport to be (and are) gluten-free, but aren’t any healthier than their glutenous counterparts. (In fact, substituting nut flour for wheat flour will result in a higher calorie count!) Total gluten elimination is not recommended for anyone but the most severe gluten intolerances, and pretending otherwise is needlessly putting yourself on an elimination diet.
Put simply, there are no grounds to exclude gluten from your diet unless you suffer from Celiac disease or non-Celiac gluten intolerance. Don’t jump on the gluten-free bandwagon unless you have a medical reason to! For most people, a balanced diet is the healthiest diet – and that includes wheat and other glutenous foods.
Disclaimer: This post was collaboratively written, and the main content was provided as part of the sponsorship; however, my reaction is my own opinion :)