Gluten Free is Not the Same as Healthy


Baker Kneading Fresh Dough

Gluten has become villainized in the popular media and among health food aficionados in recent years due to an increase in the awareness of Celiac disease and the distantly related gluten intolerance, and an increase in awareness of GMO’s.  Gluten is not an evil substance, not any more than strawberries, peanuts, or anything else that has triggered a food allergy.  Gluten simply activates an immune mediated response in some individuals, and it causes damaging inflammation in the small intestines of these individuals. In others, it simply causes a less severe case of cramping, flatulence, and/or diarrhea, and has no immune component.  Gluten intolerance (and the less severe sensitivity) is similar to having lactose intolerance or just not digesting something well. 

For those who have no biological issues with gluten, it is simply…food.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt.  It is necessary to make bread rise… it provides the gooey matrix that traps carbon dioxide produced by bread yeast.  It makes risen dough possible, makes baked goods lighter, makes pizza lighter and chewier.  It’s part of the protein… not carbs in bread.  It’s a part of a whole grain diet, and that is a healthy thing.

Wondering how to figure out if gluten is a problem for you?  An elimination diet is the easy way to figure it out at home… and cheap too.  Simply take gluten out of your diet for two weeks, and see if there is any difference.  Symptoms that can accompany gluten intolerance don’t just include gastro-intestinal problems, so watch for changes in skin health as well.

Be sure to not fall into the trap of thinking that gluten-free foods will help with weight loss.  Gluten free has nothing to do with glycemic index, carbohydrates or calories.  In fact, pure white sugar is gluten free.  Be sure to read labels on gluten free packaging, too. 

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