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Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in a few grains that include barley, wheat and rye to name a few. It is the key ingredient which makes us love a loaf of bread by binding and giving it a stretchy feel. It is commonly found in bread, bagels, baked goods, pasta, cereals, sauces and salad dressing. It’s also found in malts and food colouring.

Foods that are naturally gluten-free include rice, quinoa, potatoes, beans and nuts. We have seen a rise in gluten-free products, diets.. And this has led many people to follow it without knowing if their body needs it or not.  Gluten has a lot of health benefits and is essential for consumption for everybody except those with celiac diseases (What is Celiac disease?), wheat allergies, Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)

Though experts estimate that about 1 percent of the population suffers from celiac disease, a study by NPD, a global research group, estimates that about 30 percent of the adult population (U.S) is cutting back on gluten even though they probably don’t need to do it. So, why? Here are common misconceptions about gluten that may explain the rise of the gluten-free craze.

1. A Gluten Free Diet is Healthier

There is no research backing this theory other than for those with celiac disease. On the contrary,

Here are some of the main benefits of gluten:

1. High protein content: a 4-ounce serving of seitan provides 50 % of Recommended Daily Intake of protein and the best part is that gluten is low in fat.

2. High iron content: It is rich in iron and the amount you get depends on the quantity consumed but a 4-ounce serving of seitan gives 20 percent of Recommended Daily Intake.

3. It is also sodium free and contains some amount of calcium

4. The list doesn’t just end here. There are a lot more benefits which include source of microminerals, phosphorous, promotion of ideal weight, calcium, thiamine, fibre, Riboflavin, Niacin and folate. (Source: livestrong.com)

Sadly, there could be negative health effects if those without any symptoms or disease avoid the intake of gluten in their diet is what the research shows. Study shows that non-celiac disease people who avoid gluten are at a higher chance to increase the risk of their heart disease as compared to those who consumed it. (Source: hsph.harvard.edu

2. It’s Easier to Lose Weight on a Gluten-Free Diet

Currently, a lot of money is being invested on creating gluten-free products. Although the market for it is very small the companies are doing a good job in getting people to buy it even if they can consume gluten just to improve the sales. It is also very easy to fall into this trap because of the various benefits which are claimed to be coming from having a Gluten Free Diet (GFD) and the wider range of gluten free products which are available in the market today. But there’s no evidence that gluten free is a good weight-loss strategy, rather the opposite is often true. In a review of studies on nutrition and celiac disease published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers have said that a gluten-free diet seems to increase the risk of overweight or obesity.

Cutting back on food with gluten such as breads, pasta and other carbohydrates can help some people lose weight; however, if you replace those foods with the gluten-free versions, it’s more likely you’ll gain weight since many of those gluten-free alternatives are higher in calories and sugar. Check the ingredient lists on GF packaged foods before you buy. As with any diet, weight loss depends mainly on the amount of calories consumed.

3. Gluten Cause Cancer

The American Institute for Cancer Research actually warns people against cutting out gluten to try to avoid cancer. This is because foods with gluten, such as whole grains, contain vitamins and minerals that can bolster your protection against cancer as you age. Some of the foods that can help prevent cancer actually contain gluten.

4. Wheat has more gluten today than in the past

Though wheat has undergone minor changes over the years, the gluten content in modern wheat is probably quite similar to the past.   According to the American Chemical Society there is no clear evidence that there is more gluten in the new wheat that is responsible for increase in celiac disease.

5. Gluten free diet is good for kids

There are risks on restrictive diet for healthy children as they would be missing out on nutrients, may be eating excessive amounts of sugar and fat by consuming gluten free foods as gluten free processed foods are unevenly fortified. Kids should always eat balanced and nutritious foods.

To summarise, we should remember that different individuals react differently to gluten! If a person sensitive to it consumes it, it creates sort of a battle ground leading to inflammation. To give the gluten intolerant people an idea of what they can consume- Quinoa, buckwheat, white/red rice, millet, corn and sorghum are a few. It is evident from the above list that a gluten free diet is not only hard to obtain but is also way more expensive. Thus, it will also have a negative economic impact if people without gluten sensitivity try to adopt to such a lifestyle just because others are following it. There must be a reason for any diet that is adopted by a person and hence adopting the Gluten-free diet also requires a strong, valid reason. Think about all the points mentioned in this article and carefully decide whether it is absolutely necessary to go GLUTEN-FREE! Again, it is solely your decision to make with the help of a qualified professional.

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