Ask Amelia Nutrition

Give up gluten? No thanks!

On the Today Show this morning, they discussed the “risks of a gluten free diet.”  My thought was: FINALLY!  Some press about why most of us do not need to give up gluten for good.

Sure, for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, avoiding gluten (the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye) is crucial for maintaining good health.  But for everyone else, a gluten free diet is not a way to get healthy or lose weight.

Why?  Here are just a few reasons:

  • Gluten doesn’t make you fat.  Avoiding gluten won’t make you thin.
  • A lot of people who give up gluten end up buying more packaged, prepared, processed foods and snack foods than they even ate before.  This is not a healthy habit, whether gluten is involved or not.
  • Many gluten-free products contain more calories, more sugar, and smaller portion sizes than regular packaged foods
  • Gluten-free diets are very restrictive.  And most people don’t follow restrictive diets for very long.  So even if you established some healthier habits, odds are they wouldn’t last.
  • Whole wheat, barley, and rye are nutritious components of a healthy diet.  If you give these up, you could be missing out on fiber and other important nutrients.

Why do some people claim to “feel better” on a gluten free diet?

This is probably the reason: say you normally don’t pay much attention to what you eat, and suddenly you give up gluten and begin making more meals at home, reading Nutrition Facts labels, eating more vegetables and fewer refined grain products, and snacking less.  What do you think is going to happen?  Weight loss, feeling better, having more energy, not feeling so bloated or bogged down by huge plates of creamy pasta!  Gluten is not the culprit here.  Rather, bad eating habits in general that get axed by default when gluten disappears.

What if you’re really gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive?

Go to your doctor and get tested.  Don’t self-diagnose and give up gluten first, because this test will then be ineffective, and you won’t really know what’s going on or why you’re displaying weird symptoms.

Want more info?

Here you go: Will you lose weight on a gluten-free diet?

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  • Kristen@Change of Pace
    February 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Gluten-free is almost a fad diet. Just like paleo, atkins, zone… It’s amazing how a medical condition became a way to lose weight. I saw the today show this morning and was glad they did that segment as well!

  • kari
    February 13, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Thanks for dispelling the widespread confusion about gluten and who should avoid it. We Americans are so susceptible to marketing, even if it doesn’t apply to us. I am grateful for this blog because I get no-nonsense nutritional information along with great cooking tips. Thanks Amelia!

  • Amelia
    February 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Glad you found this helpful!

  • Amanda Herwaldt Cowan
    February 27, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    I was researching gluten-free for thyroid disease two years ago. My doc suggested giving it a try for managing symptoms (FYI- I didn’t have much relief, not enough to stick with it anyway). We have a Gluten Free store nearby that I stopped in and attended a cooking seminar there. You should have seen the products eaten as though they were nothing. Whole packages of chips and cookies. Clearly not much regard for whole eating. It’s very sad, the way things can be marketed. I don’t even understand how avoiding gluten gave anyone the idea it was healthier if you aren’t sensitive or allergic to it.

  • Amelia
    February 28, 2013 at 10:41 am

    There’s definitely a healthy way to go gluten-free, but many people are not taking the healthy route, you’re right!

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