About 1% of the United States population has celiac disease, a condition which causes intolerance to products containing gluten, which is expressed by damage to the small intestine lining. Such damage can prevent the absorption of key nutrients. In addition to this 1%, there are a growing number of people who are sensitive to gluten, but do not have celiac disease. In response to this would-be health trend, many are adopting a gluten free diet plan, believing that gluten has negative effects for everyone, and evolving it into a culinary trend. Like most fad diets, the gluten free diet plan encourages healthy eating in some ways, but can be damaging to health if people are not careful. Eating healthy gluten free requires making educated diet choices to replace the nutrients that may be omitted, along with the gluten free foods.
What Foods Are Gluten Free
Gluten is a protein found in many wheat products such as bulgur, wheat, rye, and spelt. Other products, such as barley and oats, are often in close contact to wheat products in agriculture or industrial packaging sites, making them risky for those with celiac disease. Grains such as amaranth, millet, quinoa, and rice are gluten free foods. For those with extreme intolerance to gluten, the diet restrictions go further than simply eating foods without gluten. Any food that comes in contact with a gluten product can be dangerous for them. As a response to the growing culinary trend, supermarkets have begun selling gluten free flours, and the number of gluten free restaurants has risen. The products sold in each offer extremely comparable replacements for gluten products, taste-wise, ensuring that when eliminating gluten, nothing is missed. Simply offering gluten free foods at a regular restaurant may appease gluten-sensitive diners or those choosing to adopt the gluten free diet plan for health reasons, but can be dangerous for those with celiac disease or harsh gluten intolerance. Before taking the plunge and forgoing gluten products, it is important to sift through the facts to make sure it is the right decision.
Healthy Gluten Free
The idea that the gluten free diet plan is a healthy lifestyle probably comes from the limits on desserts, which often include gluten, and high levels of sugar and fat. Thus, eating only gluten free foods can help improve cholesterol levels, digestive health, and energy levels. On the other hand, though gluten itself does not have any significant nutritional benefits, many foods that contain gluten offer iron, fiber, and vitamins and minerals such as niacin, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12. In contrast, whole grain foods are an excellent source of fiber, and may lower risk of heart disease and some cancers. Yes, by eliminating gluten, most desserts, many fast foods, and almost all processed foods will be eliminated from the diet. However, the benefits of whole grains containing gluten will be lost. Those who have gluten intolerance should be careful to plan a balanced diet or take supplements to make up for the missing nutrients. Those who can tolerate gluten should consider adopting a well-rounded, healthy, and balanced diet that will conveniently incorporate all necessary nutrients, rather than eliminate the entire category of food in favor of gluten free. A well balanced diet low in saturated fats and high in salads, produce, and whole grains will have greater health benefits for gluten-tolerant people.