The gluten-free diet is increasingly popular across the world. Many believe it is a new healthy diet to achieve optimal health. Once, the gluten-free diet was only for those with certain health issues such as celiac disease or intolerance.
People assume that the gluten-free diet promotes numerous health benefits from weight loss and increased energy to improve overall health. But not all of these medical health benefits are supported by scientific evidence.
Today, we are here to share with you everything you need to know before starting the diet, from its verified health benefits, risks, and exactly what the diet entails.
What is a gluten-free diet?
Gluten is found in baked goods containing wheat, rye, and barley. It is a protein found in specific founds containing these ingredients. It is recommended to check the labels of the products you are eating, as gluten can be hidden in a lot of foods that you least expect. Gluten-containing products include:
- Baked goods: bread, cakes, biscuits, cookies, pastries
- Pasta: all types of pasta
- Alcoholic beverages: beers, ales, sherry, port, and hard liqueurs
- Cereals: oats, granola, muesli, and cornflakes
- Grains: couscous, bulgur wheat, and semolina
- Sauces: meat and vegetable stocks, soy sauce, gravies, marinades, salad dressings, and condiments such as ketchup and mayonnaise
- Snacks: crackers, nuts, popcorn, crisps, and seeds
There is an abundance of gluten-free alternatives on the market today, from bread to snacks and sauces. Substituting baked goods and pasta with rice, vegetables, and fruits is always a great way to reach your daily carbohydrate intake.
With a growing attraction to the gluten-free diet, you may be wondering what the advantages of the diet are:
The Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet:
Gluten particularly causes trouble for those who are celiac patients, intolerance, or sensitivity. The heightened risk of trouble is for those with celiac disease. A pea-size amount of gluten can trigger an autoimmune response which causes harm to the lining of the small intestine. Reports show that in extreme cases, this can lead to seizures, infertility, and nerve damage. Thus, eliminating gluten from your diet if you are a celiac is a necessity to prevent any extreme health risks.
Whereas, for those with an intolerance to protein, it is encouraged to exclude gluten as much as possible from your diet. This is as it can provoke stomach issues, from bloating to pains and toilet troubles.
Currently, there are no proven studies to confirm that a gluten-free diet is beneficial for those without health conditions. But, reducing your gluten can have some health benefits for certain health symptoms, such as:
- Less bloating
- Improved digestive health
- Reduced stomach discomfort
To avoid health hazards, it is important to be aware of the risks a gluten-free diet can influence:
Risks and Hazards of Gluten-free Diets:
Gluten products can be very nutritious and high in essential nutrients such as vitamin B, folate, fiber, and calcium. So removing them from your diet if you do not need to can cause unnecessary deficiencies. This can eventually lead to digestion problems, skin disorders, and stunted growth.
A lack of folate is a particular concern of the gluten-free diet. Scholars at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists state in an article that this B vitamin is very important for growth, especially for children. Thus, women, in particular, need to ensure they consume enough folate during pregnancy to prevent birth defects.
The risk of developing health issues is heightened for those that do not need to remove gluten from their diet. It is not dangerous to reduce your gluten intake. But it is healthier not to eliminate the foods if you do not need to.
Other risks of gluten-free diets include:
Many gluten-free items can contain more sugars and fat than gluten-containing products. It is advised to check labels before consuming. Some people find a lack of satisfaction in a gluten-free diet and then eat more high-fat meats, sugary candies, and other non-nutritious foods.
Increased chance of developing type 2 diabetes:
Developing type 2 diabetes is more common in those who lack certain nutrients, such as folate and fibre. A clinical study found that those who consumed a gluten diet were at less risk of obtaining type 2 diabetes.
With that in mind, here are our thoughts on the health benefits, risks, and science behind the gluten-free diet:
There is no evidence to verify that the gluten-free diet is healthier than other diets. Yet, the diet is beneficial and health enriching for those with gluten troubles, as it reduces or eliminates health hazards.
Gluten-free substitutes can often contain more sugar, carbohydrates, and fat than gluten products. So, it is important to check labels and stick to daily dietary requirements to inhibit weight gain and health conditions.
If you wish to start a gluten-free diet, it is best to seek advice from your doctor to see if you have any underlying health conditions. Never self-assess your health yourself. Not only can it cause deficiencies, but it can increase the risk of heart and weight problems. Your doctor will diagnose the issue and give you advice on your diet that will reduce health risks.