The Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet
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A gluten-free diet has become a popular trend in recent months, and some may even consider it to be a “fad.” Gluten-free products are starting to line the shelves at grocery stores, but most people are still in the dark when it comes to the health benefits of a gluten-free diet.
Gluten is basically a special type of protein that is found in foods such as cereals, certain grains, and wheat. One of the main purposes of gluten is to keep the elasticity intact in foods during the fermentation phase of food production. Gluten makes bread “chewy,” and prevents other foods from having a sticky, doughy-like texture.
Why Has Gluten-Free Suddenly Become So Popular?
With recent increases in people being diagnosed with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, the idea of a gluten-free diet has been recently researched by physicians from all sides of the nutritional spectrum, including weight loss specialists, bariatric physicians, and dietitians.
A gluten-free diet can have a variety of health benefits, such as improving cholesterol levels, promoting digestive health, and increasing energy levels, if you have a gluten intolerance.
“If you choose to start a gluten-free diet, you are actually eliminating a variety of foods from your diet that are unhealthy,” says Christy Shatlock, lead dietitian for bistroMD. “Fried foods would be off limits, because of the breading, and desserts high in sugar and fat would be removed from your diet completely.”
The Benefits of Avoiding “Processed” Foods
Many foods that are processed and available for purchase contain a lot of gluten, which is essentially unhealthy for you.
“Overly-processed foods are bad for you because they contain chemicals, and artificial flavors,” says Christy.
On a gluten-free diet, you would likely eat more fruits and vegetables, just because they are several food sources that are non-starchy, and almost completely gluten-free.
By eating only gluten-free foods, you will also be eliminating unhealthy oils from your diet, as well as unhealthy carbohydrates found in bread products like doughnuts and pastries.
“Eliminating gluten, and eating a gluten-free diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and other health-related conditions, like diabetes, if you have a gluten intolerance,” says Christy. “A gluten-free diet can also help your body ward off viruses and germs, just because many of the foods you eat will be full of antioxidants, and essential vitamins and minerals.”
Gluten-Free Can Be Healthy, Just be Cautious
Most of the foods you consume on a gluten-free diet may help promote healthy weight loss, especially if you eat a well-balanced diet that contains essential protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
"Many of the gluten-free foods available are healthy for you, and can also help you lose weight with the right combinations and proportions of other foods,” says Christy. "Just keep portion size in mind, and be sure to choose gluten-free starches such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, and quinoa."
Just be cautious when it comes to reading labels. There is a lot of current confusion about the gluten-free world because many packages are now stating that their product is gluten free; the reality is, they may not be.
Pay attention to the label and beware of replacements. There are always going to be replacements for unhealthy foods that contain gluten with other unhealthy gluten-free varieties. Specifically, a lot of high-carb products, like bread, that contain gluten. Just make sure you know the facts.
Start your gluten-free program today!
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To read more healthy tips from our experts, visit the Health Library section of our website for more information.