Gluten free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years. Many celebrities have endorsed them and companies have suggested eating a gluten free diet can help you lose weight.
In most cases, people go gluten free for health reasons rather than to lose weight. A gluten free diet involves completely cutting out gluten from your diet.
Gluten is a protein that is in foods such as bread, pasta, barley, wheat, rye and some other grains. It’s also used in a lot of processed foods.
Why do people choose the Gluten Free Diet?
The main reason people go on a gluten free diet is because they have an intolerance or a sensitivity to gluten. People with coeliac disease have to completely cut gluten out of their diet. Coeliac disease is when your immune system has a bad reaction to gluten and causes inflammation of the small intestine.
Other people have a sensitivity to gluten and believe that by eliminating it from their diet, their symptoms will hopefully become less severe. This is called a non celiac gluten sensitivity. For people that are sensitive to gluten it can cause bloating, digestive problems, stomach pain and skin issues.
Many people cut it out to see whether eating a gluten free diet makes any difference.
What can you eat on the Gluten Free Diet?
At first a gluten free diet can seem tough. A lot of foods that you wouldn’t think contain gluten have it listed in their ingredients.
It’s important to be very thorough when you are checking food labels. In the UK and EU companies have to list food allergens on their labels by law. Therefore if a product contains gluten it should clearly say in the ingredients.
As you begin to adjust you will realise that with a little creativity, a gluten free diet isn’t so bad. You can eat many foods including meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, potatoes, lentils and rice.
A fair amount of alcoholic drinks contain gluten, so this is something you need to watch out for. For example, many beers and wines contain gluten.
Check with your dietitian to see which alcoholic drinks to avoid and what alternatives there are. Some companies make gluten free beer for example.
Another thing to remember is that a lot of sauces contain gluten such as gravy. You are probably best making your own sauces from scratch to be safe, but there are some gluten free alternatives.
Due to the increase in popularity of gluten free diets and the number of people developing a sensitivity to gluten, supermarkets have come up with a variety of options. Look for the ‘free from’ isle in your supermarket.
‘Free from’ products are foods that contain gluten free substitutes. On a gluten free diet you might miss eating things like cakes and bread, but ‘free from’ products provide an alternative.
These products may not taste the same as the real thing but they are very similar. If you are looking for a bit more choice then head to your local health food store, they often have a wide variety of alternative foods for people who don’t eat gluten.
If you think you might have a gluten intolerance then the best thing to do is speak to your doctor. They can rule out whether there is anything else going on before you make any extreme changes to your diet.
Another option is to book an appointment with a dietitian. They will be able to perform tests to see what sort of foods you are sensitive to.
If you are sensitive to gluten, they can help to come up with a diet plan and answer questions about what you can and cannot eat. It’s important to speak to a qualified health professional before you start cutting out things from your diet.
If you cut out a certain food group you may be missing out on important nutrients that your body needs.
If you are cutting out gluten from your diet you also need to take care when eating out at restaurants. Speak to the staff and ask whether they offer any gluten free dishes.
You might also want to check with them about cross contamination. For example, they may have gluten free dishes but they might have been prepared around ingredients containing gluten.
Final thoughts on the Gluten Free Diet
You should only really go on a gluten free diet if you have an intolerance. Going gluten free may not have any health benefits for the average person.
Whole grains should be consumed as part of a normal, balanced diet. many people are spending a lot of money on gluten free products when they may not necessarily need to. Some specially made gluten free products may not contain gluten, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have high levels of sugar and fat.
If you want to lose weight then going on a gluten free diet is not the answer.
All you need to do is eat a healthy, balanced diet and make sure you exercise regularly. Some people may lose weight on a gluten free diet but it really does depend on the individual. Often they lose weight because they are thinking about what they are eating rather than simply because they don’t eat gluten.
Many celebrities have endorsed going on a gluten free diet, making a lot of people think it can help them lose weight. Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Miley Cyrus and Gwyneth Paltrow have all been on gluten free diets.
Some people might lose weight on a gluten free diet simply because they believe it is possible. In reality, there isn’t any research proving a gluten free diet will result in weight loss, a few studies have shown that it has little impact at all.
Cutting out an entire food group or important nutrient is not good for you. Obviously for people with an intolerance or coeliac this is a necessity and they can manage perfectly well on a gluten free diet. However, the average person should simply focus on eating well and exercising rather than cutting out certain foods.