Gluten-Free And Misconception-Free: Dispelling A Few Myths About Gluten
So you’re thinking about jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon, are you? Read one too many stories about this or that celebrity who claims to have lost weight by cutting carbs? Perhaps you’ve just simply given up on living a normal life because you have an annoying co-worker who won’t shut up about being gluten-free, and you figure, hey, if you can’t beat them, join them.
Well, before you do, there are a few myths surrounding gluten that should be dispelled.
• Gluten is bad for everyone and it must stamped out before it kills again – It is a common belief among the trendy and the wide-eyed that gluten is a newly discovered murderous substance that is seeking to make you fat and possibly stab you to death in your sleep–and that is only a slight exaggeration. While indeed it is true that gluten can have a negative effect on people with Celiac disease–who make up less than one percent of the population–and other levels of intolerance, the truth is that the vast majority of people have no such sensitivity. That isn’t stopping people from self-diagnosing with something that has been termed “non-celiac gluten sensitivity,” which, honestly seems to be a way to part those who have more money than sense from their hard-earned dollars. Gluten is simply a naturally occurring protein that is found in wheat and other grains like barley and rye. Those with Celiac disease experience stomach pain and bloating if they eat even trace amounts of it, but for the rest of us, it’s just another component of food.
• Confusing gluten-free with wheat-free – Some people think that by giving up white bread and flour and replacing it with whole-grain versions, they have successfully beaten the scourge of gluten. Not true. Again, gluten is found in not only wheat and spelt, but also rye and barley. Again, these are not bad dietary choices by any means, as whole grains contain more fiber and usually a lower glycemic index so they help you feel fuller longer. These kinds of switches may even contribute to weight loss, along with other dietary changes, reduced calories, and exercise. But cutting out wheat products is not the same as eating gluten-free. Speaking of which:
• A gluten-free diet alone is likely not responsible for weight loss – The faddish among us like to tout tales of Hollywood stars who dropped remarkable amounts of weight for upcoming film roles by eating gluten-free, but there are almost always other factors to consider. For one thing, by giving up gluten, one cuts out highly refined carb items like bagels, donuts, crackers, pasta, etc. Substituting these foods for whole grains, vegetables and high protein foods automatically reduces the amount of excess carbs you’re eating. Also, consider that going on any kind of diet automatically means you are counting or at least highly attuned to how much you are eating. We cut calories simply by being aware of them in the first place.
So for the non-Celiac people out there, eat all the expensive gluten-free products you want–or can afford. But don’t fool yourself: eating sensible portions of natural, unrefined, whole foods without a lot of added sugar, along with taking up a sensible exercise program is the true path to weight loss and health.
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