Restaurants are eager to cater to customers with varied palates. Nowadays, on taking a peek at the menu in a good restaurant, you will find that next to certain items in the menu, there is a sign demarcating that it is gluten-free. In fact, you even find many food joints that boast of an entirely separate gluten-free menu even! If you are a person who can eat everything, you will invariably wonder what gluten-free food is and if anyone actually eats it? Are there any real health benefits or it is just a new culinary fad to have gluten-free food? Let’s sift the grain from the dust on this matter!
What is Celiac disease?
Gluten is a kind of protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is stored in the innermost endosperm layer of the whole grains. Whole grains are a rich source of antioxidants which are extremely beneficial for our body. For some people, it is mandatory to have a completely gluten-free diet as they are suffering from a condition called as celiac disease. They have an innate autoimmunity of the small bowels to the gluten in foods. The patient cannot digest the gluten that is found in whole grains and his immune system reacts to intake of gluten causing inflammation which leads to diarrhoea, weight loss, etc on consumption. For such people, it is mandatory to go on gluten free diet so that the symptoms are under control and do not lead to further complications like cancer. When a person completely excludes gluten protein from his/her diet, it is known as gluten-free diet.
What is gluten sensitivity?
Gluten sensitive people, are people in whom consuming gluten can lead to symptoms similar to celiac disease, but they do not suffer from the actual pathology of celiac disease. They are mildly allergic to gluten as it produces symptoms, but does not cause any damage to the intestinal lining. For these people also it is necessary to keep away from gluten containing foodstuffs.
Other than these individuals it is not necessary for anyone to shun gluten from their diet. The downside of such a diet is that your body is deprived of important nutrients like fiber, iron, zinc, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, vitamin B12 and phosphorus because these are lost in the process of making gluten-free products. Studies have also shown that people who eat whole grains are less likely to suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular problems, obesity and even many cancers.
Differentiating Fad and Fact
You must have heard people saying that they have started eating gluten free products to lose weight or they are feeling lethargic because of eating gluten containing food products. But the fact is eating whole food products help in weight management as they increase the feeling of fullness thereby preventing you from overeating and hence putting on weight. The feeling of well being comes after stopping gluten rich products is because invariably you tend to cut down on the refined carb- and sugar-laden snacks, desserts, you eat more fruits and vegetables and also you start cooking at home more frequently which in a healthy option in general and it is concluded that they are feeling better because they are not eating any gluten containing foodstuffs.
Gluten free products are made from substitute starches from rice, potatoes and tapioca flour which do not have any nutritional value and to the worst being that they are high in glycemic index and also may have higher fat and lower protein contents than their regular counterparts. Hence people who think that it is healthier to have gluten free dietary products in order to lose weight find that instead of losing they are gaining weight.
Before buying any gluten free products you must also see that the product is fortified with essential minerals as people suffering from celiac disease cannot absorb most of the nutrients from the food ingested. There are many cheaper substitutes available in markets in name of gluten free, make sure you do your research perfectly before buying any of these products.
To sum up, it is sad to know that gluten free diet is becoming a sort of fad amongst people although it is just recommended for people who are actually suffering from celiac disease or have tested positive for gluten sensitivity. To all others it is a humble request do not get into this fad as mother nature has created things that are essential for our body and should be taken in the most natural form that is possible. So listen to yourself and decide what is truly good and bad for your own self.
What are your thoughts in gluten-free diet? Write below in comments.