All over the grocery store, recipe websites, buffets, restaurant menus – you name, there is a new common trend on our food and meal choices: Gluten Free. When only 1%, or approximately 340 000 Canadians, are diagnosed with Celiac disease, it makes me wonder why the sudden increase in the gluten-free labeling and the gluten-free food options everywhere. There’s even proof in the numbers! Gluten free sales increased 30% between 2006-2010 in the United States and it is a $2.6 billion dollar industry. So why the increase?
Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthier?
“Gluten-free diets can be dangerous if you take things out [nutrients] and you don’t add them back in“, according to registered dietician Kim Arrey. I see the online trend of a lot of people trying gluten-free diets to lose weight, but I could not find any scientific evidence that support that a gluten-free diet will lead to weight loss. Perhaps so many are turning to the gluten-free diet trend, as it has been endorsed by celebrities (Lady Gaga, Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, & Miley Cyrus to name a few) and certainly the popularity of the Wheat Belly book which has since been debunked. According to the Dieticians of Canada, not everyone should eat a gluten-free diet:
A gluten-free diet is the only healthy way of eating for people with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, but it’s not necessary for everyone else. Gluten is a type of protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye, and any foods made with these grains. Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, or you are allergic to one of these grains, you don’t need to avoid them. Whether the grain you choose is gluten-free (such as corn, rice, millet or quinoa) or not, enjoying more whole grains is a healthy choice. For good health, make at least half of your grain choices whole grain each day.
Needing to Eat Gluten-Free Among the Gluten-Free Trend
Obviously one person’s thoughts cannot speak for everyone, but I interviewed a person that has to eat gluten-free for a medical reasons and she shares her thoughts and some frustrations on the gluten-free trend:
I have to eat gluten free because of a disease I have, but I know how to read ingredients and figure out what is gluten free and what isn’t. Companies label things like celery because it triggers people into grabbing that versus the celery not labeled gluten free. The whole thing is just absolutely ridiculous. People need to learn how to read ingredients the old fashioned way.I am more than happy to help people out when it comes to gluten free eating, but what people don’t understand is that it’s not a way to lose weight. Yes, cutting out pasta and bread naturally is going to help you lose weight but that has nothing to do with gluten. In fact, gluten free cookies and pasta often times contain more fat and calories than products with gluten. I will never figure out where the whole gluten free diet for weight loss came into play. Carb-free would be a better description. Leave gluten out of it! – Kelly Whiteman Snipes
Kelly says she has problems getting gluten-free food that she needs at restaurants and in the grocery stores too because they are often out of stock and she wonders if people really need to eat gluten-free like she does, or if they’re just following the trend.
What are Healthy Grains and Why Do We Need Them?
According to the Healthy Grains Institute, healthy grains are whole grains which include: wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats, buckwheat, coloured rice (black, brown and red), wild rice, corn, quinoa, millet, sorghum, amaranth, einkorn, spelt, kamut and teff. The entirety of the grain — all parts: bran, endosperm, and germ — must be included; milling and processing remove the germ and the bran which in turn removes many minerals and vitamins. This is done to produce white flour and even though white flour is enriched with vitamins and minerals, it is still not as nutritionally healthy as whole grain whole wheat flour.
People need carbohydrates in their diet, according to Dr. Carol Greenwood. There are healthy complex carbohydrates found in whole grains that can provide a person with the proper nutrients and these complex carbohydrates break down slowly, helping you sustain that full feeling that can prevent overeating. It is also important to remember the carbohydrates in grain-based products are converted by the body into glucose, which gives our brains energy and also supports other bodily functions.
Whole grains may also reduce your risk of:
- Some types of cancers (colorectal)
- Weight gain/obesity
- Cardiovascular disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Some Gluten-Free Humor
I just wanted to end this article with a couple of tweets with some gluten-free products that I can logically assume would never have contained gluten anyway (marketing ploy) and a video I find hilarious as a wheat farmer’s wife! I myself could never voluntarily give up gluten! (Pardon some of the crudeness!)
— Sarah Schultz (@NurseLovesFarmr) January 15, 2014
Of COURSE it's gluten-free. It's CELERY for fucks sake. pic.twitter.com/1WfV3mxrsl
— Wil Wheaton (@wilw) January 2, 2014
As a wheat farmer’s wife, it’s very frustrating to see wheat being cast as the villain in our food chain. Instead of cutting out a whole food group because of a diet trend, really do your research, talk to a dietician and your physician, and strive to eat a well-balanced diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, milk-based products, and meat.
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