I’ve been doing a lot of research this last week for a school project about gluten, which has given rise to a lot of thoughts and specifically misconceptions, about eating gluten-free.
1. Gluten-Free is “Just a Fad”
The most common theme I found through all my research is that eating gluten-free is “just a fad.” People are doing it because everyone (including celebs) and their dog are doing it, or because it’s supposedly the newest and greatest weight loss diet, or because their best friend tried it and her life is now all sunshine and rainbows so why can’t it solve all their problems too?
I do NOT think gluten-free eating is “just a fad”. I think it seems fad-like because there has been a rapid increase in awareness of the concept of gluten-free in the last few years. So why is there increased awareness? Well, somewhere down the line someone tried eating gluten-free, whether it was for Celiac reasons or not, and found that it solved their internal health issues. Naturally, they told their friends about it, who told their friends and so on and so forth. As more people heard about it, they gave it a try and might have found that it helped their health issues too. Because gluten-sensitivity or celiac disease hasn’t been a common illness until recently, people aren’t often tested for it. Now with the current awareness, more and more people are associating their health issues to gluten and as a result, everybody is talking about it!
2. Gluten-Free is the Solution to Many Health Issues
Continuing on the above thought, because so many people have had success eating gluten-free, many think that eating gluten-free is a valid cure for a variety of health issues. Besides improving IBS symptoms, many people claim that eating gluten-free has helped arthritis, eczema, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, osteoporosis, diabetes and anemia among other ailments. Presently there is little information to link any of these diseases with gluten, BUT, there is great interest in this area and research is underway!
3. Gluten-Free is a Great Weight Loss Solution
This one is hard for me to talk about because the reason I started eating gluten, dairy and sugar-free was to lose weight. In my defense though, I had NEVER heard of gluten or anything about or related gluten before doing my food sensitivity test. My sensitivity to gluten caused me to retain weight BUT this isn’t the case for everyone. For a lot of people eating gluten-free means eliminating fast foods, processed foods, refined grains, higher fat and sugary foods and eating more fruits, vegetables and whole foods. People feel better and lose a bit of weight because they are eating better in general, but attribute it to the avoidance of gluten. In my case, my diet before going gluten-free was low in all of the bad foods, so gluten really was my problem.
If you are looking to lose weight, it is best to stick with the only weight loss “diet” that works – maintain a healthy, nutritious diet and expend more calories than you consume!
4. Gluten is Bad for Everyone!
Gluten-sensitivity affects only a minority of the world population, yet a great majority of people are preoccupied with the thought that gluten is bad for everyone. I came across this analogy and I think it sums it up perfectly: Gluten is not “bad” for those tolerant of it, any more than peanuts are “bad” for people free of a peanut allergy!
As mentioned above, if you are thinking about giving gluten-free eating a try to feel better, take a look at your overall diet first. A lot of people eat an underbalanced diet with low or little fruit and vegetable intake, lean meats and alternative proteins. Revamping your diet and cutting out processed foods is a simple solution that can have huge positive effects on your health and wellness – effects that a lot of people underestimate!
5. Gluten-Free Things are Healthier
Last year one of my school friends told me that her roommates started buying gluten-free frozen pizzas because they thought they were healthier than regular frozen pizzas and she asked me if this was true. Definitely not true. The gluten-free pizza still has bread, cheese, fat, carbs, etc. The only difference is that it is missing the gluten protein found in regular pizza, but everything else is the same! Gluten-free sweets like brownies and cookies are filled with just as much fat and sugar as their gluten-filled counterparts.
If a person goes gluten-free and instead of filling up on wheat and breads focuses more on fruits, veggies, lean proteins and gluten-free whole grains, then yes, that diet is healthier, but it has nothing to do with being gluten-free!
6. If You’re Not Celiac but Gluten-Sensitive, It’s Still Okay to Have a Little Gluten
Some people test negative for celiac disease but still react negatively to gluten. This has been deemed “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” and this is what I have.
I recently read the following statement and it really struck a chord with me: “Gluten-sensitive persons don’t have to be as strict with their diets and the worry of gluten cross-contamination is not as big an issue.”
This is probably THE most frustrating thing about being a non-celiac gluten-sensitive person. People don’t understand that just because we aren’t Celiacs, doesn’t mean that we don’t get ill from eating gluten too. I had someone recently offer me a muffin and I politely refused because they were made with regular flour. “Oh, but its just ½ cup of flour for all these muffins, they’re mostly blueberries so it’s okay!” Actually, no, it’s not okay. My body doesn’t like gluten, even if it’s a tiny amount. I may not get deathly ill like a Celiac but my body still freaks out and I would prefer to not feel bloated, sick and downright uncomfortable for the next 2-4 days. So no thank you, I will not have a muffin made with flour. That’s like saying to someone with a peanut allergy, “Here have a peanut butter cookie. You’re not an anaphylactic so the one peanut in this cookie is okay!”
No. It’s NOT okay.
7. Eating Gluten Free is Impossible
For a new gluten-free eater, it can definitely seem impossible, but I assure you, it’s not. People might automatically think they need to buy all these expensive specialty foods to replace all the bread and other glutinous foods with. They think they just eat as they always have, but use gluten-free ingredients (e.g. muffins, breads, etc.) instead. The funny thing people don’t realize though, is that you actually don’t need ANY gluten-free products to eat gluten-free! By replacing unhealthy gluten-filled pizza, doughnuts, cereals, etc. with naturally gluten-free meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, eating gluten-free can actually increase your nutrient intake! How? Just like I mentioned above! Giving up all the processed and fast foods increases your intake of other healthy, more nutritious options like fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean proteins. How about that for some Food For Thought? 😉
Do you have any frustrations with eating gluten-free?