Gluten Free or Not?

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It used to be that, only people with Celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten would follow gluten-free diets. Now it is a health trend and the gluten-free product market hasn’t even seen a slow down during recession! Gluten is a protein that is found in grains like wheat, barley, rye and triticale. If you have symptoms of gluten sensitivity then you should certainly follow the gluten free guidelines but don’t be under the misconception that “gluten-free” diet is a “healthy diet”. To start with let’s look at some cons of the gluten free diet:

  • Gluten found in wheat flour is included in most common whole-grain products (rich in vitamins and fiber) which should and are the base for a healthy diet (in conjunction with fruits and vegetables) so if a person is strictly restricted to gluten-free foods, he/she can end up with fewer healthy options
  • Gluten-free diets can often lead people to choose high-calorie alternatives, for e.g. sweetened yogurt instead of whole wheat bread
  • Gluten-free food products are not always cost effective

Having said that, there are some pros to going “gluten-free”:

  • If you are sensitive to gluten then eliminating gluten from your diet will definitely help you get relief from the symptoms
  • Even if your allergy test for gluten reads ‘negative’ it may provide relief for you from some other gastrointestinal problems you might be experiencing (and this is due to rise in nonceliac gluten sensitivity)
  • It encourages food product awareness and reading food labels which can improve your health awareness in turn
  • If a gluten-free diet is planned correctly it can increase consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • But most importantly according to me, Gluten-free diets might encourage people to think of other alternative healthy grains which were neglected earlier Amaranth, Quinoa, Oats, Brown rice, Sorghum, Maize, Buckwheat and Wild rice are really healthy grains when included as whole grain/whole grain flour. Eating a ‘rainbow’ (variety) of grains helps to add to your balanced meal because the primary rule of a healthy diet is that ‘no one food can provide you with all the nutrients a human body needs’!

A win-win situation would be if we plan meals with these other whole grains which have hoard of nutrients to offer as well.

In a nut-shell, if you have celiac disease or suffer from gluten sensitivity then going gluten-free (with help from a professional) is certainly the way for you but if you don’t suffer from a condition, going 100% gluten-free is not advisable. Include a variety of whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, exercise and feel the difference!

Here is a list of ‘gluten-free’ grains

  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Sorghum
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Millets
  • Rice
  • Corn (preferably Organic, to avoid ‘GMO’ variety)

(Contributed by inChefs’ Nutritionist, Chaitali Rede)