Gluten intolerance and celiac disease are on the rise, and that means store shelves are becoming increasingly packed with products labelled “gluten-free.” But more and more people who are in no way intolerant to the protein are embarking on gluten-free diets. Is this a positive or negative turn of events? We take a look at the growing trend and try to answer this question.
Where did the concept of a gluten-free diet come from?
The Globe and Mail reports that the notion of a gluten-free diet developed as more and more people began being diagnosed with an allergy to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. These individuals were experiencing such symptoms as diarrhea, bloating, gas, abdominal pain and fatigue whenever they consumed products containing the protein. Their inability to eat so many types of foods and their discomfort when they did led to many gluten-intolerant people showing signs of weight loss. When celebrities and fad-diet enthusiasts caught wind of this, a whole new form of dieting was born.
How can a gluten-free diet contribute to weight loss?
One positive element of being on a gluten-free diet is that it forces you to read labels. Many products contain gluten, whether or not that seems evident based on what the product is. For this reason, those on a gluten-free diet have to read the labels of virtually every food they consume, and this can result in healthier, more conscious eating if it’s done right. Because many nutrient-lacking foods, such as baked goods and plain pastas, are made with wheat, having to avoid such foods means reducing the amount of junk food you consume overall. It may cause you to look for healthier options, such as buckwheat noodles and foods made with almond flour. However, it’s important to note that just because a product is labelled “gluten-free” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthier option. There are plenty of gluten-free bagels, cookies and snack foods that are no better for you than their wheat-containing counterparts.
How can a gluten-free diet be maintained in a healthy manner?
As with any diet that involves the removal of certain kinds of foods, the nutrients in those foods need to be consumed through other sources. For example, removing wheat bran from their diet can cause some people to find themselves deficient in fibre. This means they need to add other sources of fibre, such as flaxseeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables, to their diets to compensate, explains The Globe and Mail.
Does a gluten-free diet guarantee weight loss?
No. Going gluten-free may cause you to be a more conscious eater, and it may encourage you to seek out new kinds of healthy foods, but it in no way guarantees you will lose weight. Weight loss always boils down to healthy eating and regular exercise. If you are loading up on nutrient-deficient gluten-free foods and not exercising, you may actually experience weight gain from the switch. A gluten-free diet is necessary for one in 133 Canadians, but if a gluten-free diet is something you truly want to pursue, consult your doctor so you can make sure you do it right.