Is gluten-free food the way to go?

WE’VE all seen food items stacked on grocery shelves and health food stores prominently marked as “gluten-free”. So what really is gluten, and why do food manufacturers make a conscious effort to keep gluten out of certain food items?

Gluten is a general term for proteins naturally found in wheat. Ergo, products that use wheat will contain gluten. Foods with gluten content are pasta, bread, crackers, cookies, cereal and most baked goods, among others. Beer, which is typically made from barley, also contains gluten.

Gluten-free foods are rice, meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables and dairy. However, let me point out that gluten may be added during the preparation of these food items. Fried chicken, for instance, will contain flour and will no longer be gluten-free.

Which now brings us to the question: Will having a gluten-free diet help us lose weight and get rid of excess fat? Is gluten truly unhealthy and must it be eradicated from our diets?

Gluten-free foods were primarily meant to cater to a certain market segment. This consists of people who are suffering from Celiac disease. This condition is marked by gluten sensitivity, such that ingestion of the latter often leads to diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, and may lead to serious health complications for the affected individual. 

If you are suffering from Celiac disease, consuming gluten will trigger an immune response in the small intestine, which, over time, may damage this organ’s lining and prevent the absorption of nutrients. While there is no cure for this condition, a strict gluten-free diet helps prevent the occurrence of symptoms and may promote intestinal health.

There is a prevailing misconception that a gluten-free diet is healthier (for people without Celiac disease) and may help stave off unwanted body fat. Such claims are largely unfounded and are not supported by scientific studies. If you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, by all means, erase gluten from your diet at all costs.  Otherwise, gluten is not the bad guy it is purported to be. 

Manufacturers take pains to produce gluten-free baked goods such as cookies and breads, in order to provide sufferers of Celiac disease the experience of enjoying a product that would otherwise cause them harm. Ingredients containing gluten are substituted  with safer alternatives. Thus, they are able to plaster on the  gluten-free label. 

If staying fit and maintaining low levels of body fat is your goal, gluten is not the enemy. Unhealthy food choices, coupled with overindulgence and lack of physical activity are the bad guys we must keep in check.