Gluten Free

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The Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet Plan

A gluten-free diet plan has become a popular trend in recent months, and some may even consider it to be a "fad." But what is a gluten-free diet and how may you benefit from following one?

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With recent increases in people being diagnosed with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, the idea of a gluten-free diet has been researched by healthcare professional from all sides of the nutritional spectrum, including bariatric physicians and dietitians.

A gluten-free diet plan has become a popular trend in recent months, and some may even consider it to be a "fad." But what is a gluten-free diet and how may you benefit from following one?

What is a Gluten-Free Diet?

Gluten is a special type of protein naturally found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. It is also found in foods produced with the grains, including cereals, breads, and pastas.

One of the primary functions of gluten is to keep the elasticity intact in foods during the fermentation phase of food production. Gluten also provides the chewiness of breads and prevents other foods from having a sticky, doughy-like texture.

In addition to the more obvious sources of gluten, it may be added to marinades, sauces, dressings, and condiments. Gluten may also be found in supplements, medications, and cosmetics.

But as gluten-free products are starting to line the shelves at grocery stores, most people are still in the dark when it comes to the gluten-free diet benefits and potential harms of following one.

The Benefits and Harms of a Gluten-Free Diet Plan

First and foremost, a gluten-free diet is the only known treatment option for those managing celiac disease (CD). Beyond CD, though, the following conditions may also benefit from a gluten-free diet:

• Gluten-sensitive irritable bowel syndrome
• Nonceliac gluten sensitivity
• Schizophrenia or other mental health conditions
• Atopy
• Fibromyalgia
• Endometriosis
• Obesity
• Athletic performance

However, it is necessary to mention gluten-free is not synonymous with healthy and not the answer to weight loss. In fact, potential harms of a gluten-free diet plan include:

• Deficiencies of micronutrients and fiber
• Increases in fat content of foods
• Hyperlipidemia
• Hyperglycemia
• Coronary artery disease
• Increased financial costs
• Social impairment or restrictions

How to Start a Gluten-Free Diet

Before starting a gluten-free diet plan "just because," it is extremely advantageous to consult with a primary care provider to determine whether or not following one can be beneficial or harmful for you.

However, if recommended to follow a gluten-free diet plan, it is critical to do so in a healthy, yet cautious manner.

Gluten-Free Can Be Healthy with Caution

Coordinate with a Registered Dietitian prior to doing away with gluten entirely. Their nutrition expertise can help create a safe, individualized plan to ensure nutritional needs are being met while including gluten-free.

Fortunately, a large volume of foods are not only naturally gluten-free, but rich in nutrients and recommended in a well-balanced diet. Healthy, naturally gluten-free foods include the following:

• Gluten-free grains, including brown rice, oats, corn, and millet
• All fruits and veggies, just be cautious of packaged veggies and fruits with a sauce or dressing
• Meat and poultry, just be cautious of breaded products that may contain gluten
• Fish and seafood, also being cautious of breading
• Beans and other legumes
• Nut and seed varieties
• Milk and dairy products, also being mindful of added gluten in ice creams and yogurts
• Soy and soy-based products, including tofu, tempeh, and soy milk

Ultimately, verify whether or not gluten is present by taking advantage of food product labels. As some foods are naturally gluten-free, they may become contaminated with gluten during processing. Oats are a well-known example of gluten cross-contamination.

Also ask the servers about gluten-free options when dining at a restaurant. And if skeptical of a food, skip out on it.

Importantly, too, be cautious of products labeled as "gluten-free" and remember a gluten-free diet does not always constitute a healthy eating pattern. Just because a box of cookies is gluten-free, it can also be laden in added sugars, refined flours, and other highly processed ingredients.

Why You Should Avoid Processed Foods

Whether following a gluten-free diet or simply trying to incorporate more nutritious foods, the reality is everyone can benefit from reducing the intake of highly processed foods.

Diets devoid of nutrient-dense foods increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, certain forms of cancer, and other health conditions. What's more, a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found people have a 14 percent higher risk of early death for every 10 percent increase in ultraprocessed foods they consume, including in the forms of snacks and desserts.

"If choosing to start a gluten-free diet, there is a great opportunity to incorporate more wholesome foods in the diet." says Christy Zagarella, lead dietitian for bistroMD. "There is a natural reduction in gluten-containing sweets and other highly processed foods.”

"But I do not necessarily think all desserts high in sugar and fat need to be removed completely from the diet," says Christy, "as indulging in ice cream from time-to-time, gluten-free or not, can and should fit into a well-balanced diet."

"Truly, though, people have to be cautious when choosing gluten-free foods. Staying away from processed foods is key to keeping a gluten-free diet healthy and nutritious."

A Gluten-Free Diet Plan Made Simple

While eating a gluten-free diet can certainly be achieved through careful planning and intent, following one may come with substantial pressures. Ordering gluten-free meals from a meal delivery service can ease the mind and take out the guesswork of safe and healthy eating.

All meals are tested to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gluten-free standard (20 ppm or less) and do not contain wheat, rye, barley, or their constitutes.

Meals are also approved by Registered Dietitians and crafted with fresh, all natural ingredients. Menus are also dietitian-prepared with the nutritional requirements of a gluten-free diet, while scientifically-proven to facilitate weight loss and sustain a healthy lifestyle.

From apple cinnamon oatmeal with scrambled eggs for breakfast to a chicken enchilada stack for dinner, you will never feel limited of gluten-free options, robbed of flavor, or deprived of essential nutrients!

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on February 18, 2019.

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