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Do you actually need to be gluten free?

Walking through the grocery, you’re likely to see so many labels slapped on food products. One of them is “Gluten Free”. If you don’t have celiac disease or a sensitivity, you may not even be familiar with what gluten is. Or even if you do know what it is, chances are you’re hearing conflicting views within the area of nutrition about whether gluten is good or bad for you. In order to make a choice about whether or not to have gluten in your diet, it’s important to first understand what exactly gluten is. Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten can be found in many foods, and even drinks; such as :

  • Bread

  • Pasta

  • Soy sauce

  • Flour

  • Beer

  • Cereal

  • Crackers

  • Cookies

  • Pastries

These are just a few foods, as gluten shows up in a lot of things you wouldn’t expect as well.

Circling back to whether or not gluten is harmful or not, the short answer is no. Most people don’t need to cut out gluten in order to be healthy. However, there is a small population of individuals who do. A gluten-free diet is necessary for people with celiac disease, which is an autoimmune response to gluten that causes the body to attack the small intestine. It can cause belly pain, nausea, bloating or diarrhea. People with celiac disease can’t tolerate gluten in any form, and therefore they will need to follow a gluten-free diet for the rest of their lives.

Another condition that may prompt someone to cut gluten from their diets is a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, sometimes called a gluten intolerance or if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome and your doctor has recommended it. Figuring out if you have one of these conditions can be difficult on your own, so it is important to consult a doctor so they help you to challenge and isolate what foods are actually causing you irritation.

Despite the fact that only these individuals need to follow a gluten-free diet, many people are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon unnecessarily. This is mainly because a gluten-free diet is thought to be “healthier”. Many people associate gluten with bread, snacks, and desserts, but this isn’t really the case. If you don’t have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, a gluten-free diet isn’t inherently healthier. The main reason people find success on a gluten-free diet is because they find themselves eating fewer cakes and cookies, or being more intentional about food choices. So, in reality, it’s not cutting out the gluten that makes you feel good, it’s cutting out the junk!

There happens to be many foods that contain gluten that happen to be very nutritious, and by cutting these out you could be missing out on vital nutrients, such as iron, folate, and magnesium. Some healthy foods with gluten are whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, barley, and rye. So, in short, If you don't have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, there is no reason to cut out these healthy foods!


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1 Comment

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