Gluten has received a bad reputation in recent years. While it is true that people with Celiac Disease must eliminate it from their diets because of a medical need, and that there are other people who have gluten sensitivities, you may not want to dismiss gluten quite yet.
As consumers become more health conscious, they are changing their lifestyles to meet their goals for improved well-being and longevity. This can include clean eating, where gluten elimination is sometimes also implemented. However, not everyone who follows a clean-eating diet, has decided to eliminate gluten, and research is showing that this may be a very good thing.
Before you decide to eliminate gluten from your diet, here are some things you need to know:
Increased Risk for Nutritional Deficiencies:
Many gluten-containing foods are rich in fiber, iron, calcium, and some of the B-vitamins such as folate (especially important during the first trimester of pregnancy), thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. Therefore, if you eliminate gluten from your diet, you need to ensure that you are still getting adequate levels of these vitamins, minerals, and fibrous content.
Gluten-Free Foods Can Be Lower in Fiber:
Whole grains found in whole-wheat bread or whole-wheat pasta, are an excellent source of fiber. With people not getting enough fiber in their diets as it is, and colorectal cancer on the rise, the reduction in intake of fiber can have devastating health consequences.
If you decide to go gluten-free, you need to ensure that you are getting enough fiber from other sources such as brown rice, quinoa, whole fruits and vegetables, legumes and pulse grains such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
Gluten-Free Foods Aren’t Necessarily Healthier:
Just because a food at the supermarket claims to be gluten-free, does not mean that it is healthier. Not only can these foods be lower in fiber, they may also have increased sugar, fat content, and more calories. If you choose to eat clean and be gluten-free, staying away from gluten-free processed foods and ensuring you eat whole foods (like they are found in nature), will ensure that you are maximizing your nutritional intake.
In summary, before you eliminate gluten automatically from your diet, be sure you do your research. You may find that your overall diet would benefit from making healthier choices of gluten-containing foods (ex. whole grains vs. white flour) instead of eliminating gluten altogether. The best reasons for eliminating gluten is that you have Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivities.