Gluten-free diets like the Paleo Diet is a craze that's steadily built momentum in celebrity circles in previous years - now gluten-free cookbooks are becoming bestsellers and thousands of ordinary people are trying out this diet.
But what does the gluten-free diet involve, and should you really be embarking on it for weight loss purposes without a doctor's input?
Demand for gluten-free products are at an all time high, such as gluten-free pasta with gluten free bolognese sauce, shown above
Inside a cereal grain is a type of protein called gluten. It is gluten that makes the dough more elastic and affects how “chewy” a baked good will be. Although gluten is sometimes thought of as simply a product of wheat, it is also found in rye and barley.
Not every grain contains gluten. Some gluten free grains are:
While oats are also gluten free, they are often processed in the same factories as wheat, which means they could be contaminated.
Why Is Gluten So Important?
It seems as if suddenly, gluten has become a big deal. Why? Because the typical diet is simply overflowing with some type of gluten filled grain. Whether it is bread, crackers, pasta, seasoning packages, spice mixes, cereal, anything that is breaded, such as chicken or steak, all baked goods, pizza, noodles, spreads, soup, gravy, or salad dressing, it contains gluten.
For some people, this is a serious problem.
Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease
By now, you have probably heard of these modern health problems. Some people, even though they have tested negative for celiac disease, state that eating gluten gives them a variety of health problems, such as headaches or insomnia. While many doctors dismiss this idea as being "in someone's head", the fact remains that thousands of people claim that going gluten free has made them feel better.
Common complaints for those who suffer from gluten sensitivity are dry skin, fatigue, rashes, muscle cramps, headaches, bloating.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the consumption of gluten actually causes damage to the small intestine. It is not common, with an estimated 1 out of every 100 persons worldwide being affected, but for those persons, this disease is a very real and serious problem.
The disease appears to be hereditary, with a person having a 1 in 10 risk of developing it themselves if their parents or a sibling has it.
Common symptoms of celiac disease are:
As you might have guessed from the name, the gluten-free diet is an exclusion diet which removes the protein gluten. Gluten-free diets were initially intended as a treatment for those who have a gluten intolerance known as celiac disease. People without this illness might also have some form of gluten intolerance, which can be subdued by removing gluten from the diet.
Gluten is a staple protein in many of the products we consume every day, which makes gluten-free diets quite tricky for many. You’ll find gluten in these ingredients:
You should also avoid the following foods unless they’re specified as being gluten-free:
You can see why many might find the gluten-free diet a challenge! However, there are a range of delicious foods that are allowed on this diet, including most dairy products, all beans and seeds in their natural form, fresh meat and fish, fruit and vegetables.
Some people believe that potatoes, because they are starchy, are somehow a forbidden food on the gluten free diet. Potatoes contain absolutely no gluten and can be enjoyed anytime! In fact, potatoes are actually super foods that are high in many important minerals including folate, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and copper.
In addition to adding much needed fiber to our diets, potatoes can make you feel as if you are eating a more "normal" diet. Pass on the bread platter and put some potatoes on your plate!
Another food that sometimes gets a bad rap is Chia seeds. Some people believe that these tiny seeds are too fatty to be good for you, but the exact opposite is true. Chia seeds are miniature treasure chests of nutrition that should not be passed up! They contain almost no calories, but have a whopping 11 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein! Yes, one ounce will have 9 grams of fat, but these are mostly the omega-3 type of fat that your body really needs.
Don’t pass up one of Mother Nature's most perfect foods!
Last, but not least, are beans. Like potatoes, many people think beans contain gluten, but this is not true. Beans not only lower cholesterol levels in the body, but studies have found that the more beans you eat, the less gas and bloating you will have. For those who frequently suffer from these problems due to gluten, beans can help to make you feel like a new person.
Most people find that they have a difficult time finding snacks or quick breakfast foods that are gluten free. To top it off, although everyone knows they need to eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, it can be difficult to fit in all that food.
Enter the fruit smoothie. Not only will these delicious drinks nourish your body with essential vitamins and minerals, they are quick and easy to make. Simply put a few pieces of fruit in your blender with a bit of water or milk and run the blender for a minute or two. It really is that simple! These are perfect to make for breakfast because you can pour them in a container and go!
If you find you have trouble eating all the fruit you should, try making a morning smoothie!
We also want to mention soup because this once staple food item seems to have fallen out of favor lately. Soups can be another great way to get in those needed vegetables that you otherwise might miss out.
A salad and a cup of vegetable soup for lunch is one of the most perfect meals ever invented.
A basic soup broth with potatoes, beans, carrots, green beans, squash, or any other vegetables you happen to have on hand is not only filling, but super nutritious. Put your soup together the night before in a crock pot, and then turn it on when you leave home in the morning. When you come home from work – instant dinner, just add a side salad. What could be easier or more nutritious?
When you first go on the gluten free diet, you might begin to wonder if you are making matters worse. The fact is that while your body is detoxing from gluten, you might experience some unwanted side effects. This is perfectly normal and you should start feeling better within 7 days or less.
Common detoxing side effects are:
There are some natural foods you can consume that will help the body naturally heal itself if you believe you have been damaged by gluten.
You should also consider taking a multivitamin that includes vitamins A, D, D, E, zinc, as well as B complex to help improve and support the immune system.
One of the key benefits of the gluten-free diet is that is encourages people to avoid processed food in all its forms, shunning them for fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. Not only do processed foods contain gluten, they also contain a lot of sugar, salt, fat and other hidden ingredients that can contribute towards weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle.
By eliminating products like bread and pasta, those on the gluten-free diet are also removing these almost nutritionally void products from their diet.
If you're planning to eliminate gluten from your own diet for weight loss purposes, here are a few tips to help make the process easier for you:
Food manufacturers are becoming more aware of the demand for gluten-free products, and are putting forward their own items without gluten in them. Even Domino's Pizza now offers a gluten-free pizza base! As this exclusion diet becomes more popular and accepted as a way to treat celiac disease and other digestive problems, trends indicate that more affordable gluten-free products will be hitting the shelves soon.
It can be costly to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and animal products all of the time – especially if you're supplementing your diet with dedicated gluten-free products that tend to cost more than their counterparts which do contain gluten. Many celebrities have stuck to the diets – including Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Novak Djokovic and Kourtney Kardashian – but those on strict budgets might find it harder to eliminate gluten entirely.