To Be Gluten-Free, or Not To Be? That is the Question…

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The gluten-free diet has become one of the trendiest diets of the time, even though only a small percentage of the Canadian population has Celiac disease – an autoimmune disease that causes serious damage to the individual’s intestinal system when gluten is ingested, making it very hard for their bodies to absorb nutrients from the food they eat. Individuals who have celiac disease need to adhere to a gluten free diet for life to avoid unwanted and uncomfortable digestive complications and long-term health consequences.

The sudden interest in a gluten free lifestyle could be due to the perceived health benefits of the diet, such as weight loss and improved digestive health, among many others. Not to mention the added promotional boost from some of our favourite celebs.  This increased attention has made a vast improvement to our awareness of other grain choices and the variety of gluten free options for those who need to follow a gluten free diet.  However, for the general population, following a gluten free diet doesn’t necessarily hold the answers to your health concerns.

There is little to no evidence out there to support weight loss from following a gluten free diet among the general population. There could be a couple of factors at play for those who have claimed to have lost weight after switching to a gluten free lifestyle.  These individuals have likely started being more thoughtful about what they’re putting on their plates.  Choosing refined carbohydrates and heavily processed items less often, and including whole foods such as, fruits, vegetables, and legumes more frequently.  Opting for these choices more often could lead to weight loss over time.  Another important point is that gluten free products are not always the ‘better’ option.  It’s always important to read nutrition labels, including labels on gluten free items because they could be higher in sugar, sodium, or fat.

Rolled oats (oat flakes) in a wooden spoon on a rolled oats background. Close-up.

Rolled oats (oat flakes) in a wooden spoon on a rolled oats background. Close-up.

If you’ve been considering going gluten free for the perceived health benefits, why not try being more mindful of your grain choices instead. Giving more consideration to your grain choices throughout the day will help you reap some great health benefits and keep your diet balanced and full of variety!  Try to incorporate some of these tips on campus or in your kitchens:

 

 

  • Reach for whole grains. They’re full of fibre, which is not only great for your digestive system, but also has heart benefits and may help you manage your weight.
  • Aim for variety with your grain choices. Have pasta or noodles at one meal, and then try an ancient grain like quinoa or barley for another.
  • Add healthy fats to your diet from foods likes nuts, seeds, oils, and avocados to help you manage the size of your grain portions throughout the day.
  • Make sure half your plate is filled with veggies to also help you regulate your grain portions and keep you well on track of your nutrition and wellness goals.