People who insist that gluten was holding them back sure are convincing.
They claim they’ve lost weight effortlessly. That they can see clearly (now the rain is gone). That they have more energy, a better mood and have reduced their inflammation.
If your favourite part of dinner includes a breadbasket, you may feel like you are sneaking a cigarette.
Yet gluten-free is not synonymous with home-free when it comes to your health.
As the great Paula Abdul sang, “I take two steps forward, I take two steps back.” Let’s take those steps back.
First of all, do you know why you want to say no to gluten in the first place? There was a hilarious Jimmy Kimmel segment where he asked random people, “What is gluten?” There were a lot of flummoxed people who tried to cover their tracks but ultimately few could answer.
What is “it” anyway?
Gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye, is a protein that can cause negative reactions in the body. This is truer today than it has been at any other time. One slice of bread has 50 times more gluten today than it did 15 years ago.
Why is this a bad thing?
If you’ve ever made Paper Mache, you know what gluten does. When you mix flour & water it creates…glue! The stickiness interferes with nutrient absorption. The reason why it’s potentially “bad” for everyone is that wheat causes a huge amount of inflammation and blood sugar spikes.
In fact, one slice of whole wheat, whole grain bread spikes blood sugar more than a Mars bar! This spike is a trigger for weight gain and could lead to a gluten-free muffin top.
Even if you don’t have digestive symptoms when eating gluten, it’s best to avoid or minimize it. The upside is that most people feel better and get all the benefits of swapping out gluten by simply getting rid of wheat.
However, there’s one big catch to eating gluten-free the healthy way.
Our advice: Don’t swap gluten-full for gluten-free.
Virtually all gluten-free products on store shelves are made with starch, bad fat and white sugar. Companies use nutrient void ingredients to get a similar texture and taste to gluten-full products. Many items, especially those made with corn contain nasty GMOs.
This combination of ingredients is akin to eating a refined potato that’s been covered in sugar. That doesn’t sound so healthy anymore, does it?
Before you swear off eating entirely to live off of air, remember there are some great products out there. These are almost always made from ingredients naturally gluten free in the first place. What you want to minimize are the gluten-free breads, crackers, cookies, cakes, pizzas and pastas. The cinnamon bun in the freezer that declares it is gluten-free is not the best choice nutritionally.
Yet many gluten free foods don’t need a label, like fresh fruits, veggies, good quality meat and animal products and an abundance of healthy fats. If it comes in a bag or box, check out the ingredient list for a few pronounceable ingredients. The key is to keep things simple, focus on whole foods from the outside aisles in the grocery store and keep your food choices colourful.
Whole, unprocessed foods, whether you are gluten-full or gluten-free is the most important detail that you can consider when it comes to your diet.
As Julia Child said, “Everything in moderation…including moderation.”