25 Nov 7 Diets In 7 Weeks – Going Gluten Free
Week 4 : Going Gluten-Free
A gluten-free diet is becoming increasingly popular these days and many health professionals will tell us that, if you’re one of the millions of people who have a sensitivity, allergy or intolerance to gluten, there are a number of health benefits to eliminating it from your diet. Accordingly there’s been a huge increase in the number and variety of gluten-free options available on our supermarket shelves, and the fact that the Aussie gluten-free industry is now worth around $100 million suggests that it’s not just sufferers of Coeliac Disease who are choosing to go gluten-free.
This week I wanted to take a look at the gluten-free products that are available and how they stand up to their gluten-ous counterparts.
I wanted to do more than simply avoid gluten this week, so I attempted to live like a Coeliac Disease sufferer for seven days.
Gluten is a natural protein that is found in items like wheat, rye and barley and is responsible for giving bread its elasticity and chewiness. Coeliac Disease causes a hypersensitivity to gluten in the small intestine, eliciting an immune response that damages the inner lining of the gut and prevents the absorption of vital nutrients from food. It can be excruciatingly painful, debilitating and embarrassing.
Luckily, with the number of gluten-free alternatives now available, Coeliacs can still enjoy bread, pasta and other traditionally wheat-based foods without suffering the symptoms of their disease. For Coeliacs and those suffering from medically diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or a gluten intolerance, choosing a gluten-free lifestyle can be extremely beneficial to gut health, nutrient absorption and digestive function. As such, gluten-free foods are now considered by many to be a ‘healthy’ alternative.
Pros and Cons
As I don’t have any intolerance to gluten, this week was more about putting gluten-free products to the test and comparing them to regular pasta, bread etc.
On the upside, these products are now readily available, with most major supermarkets now featuring a dedicated gluten-free aisle or area with gluten-free pasta, bread, biscuits and flours.
On the downside, these products tend to be highly processed, loaded with sugar and hugely expensive (in some cases the gluten-free product was almost four times more expensive than its gluten-ous equivalent!).
It’s also very important to note that gluten-containing wheat and wholegrains are packed with vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fibre, so a strict gluten-free diet may be lacking these essential nutrients. It’s been shown that people who eat three serves of wholegrains a day are 30% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Don’t believe all the hype you hear about gluten and its potentially damaging effect on your body. I would definitely not recommend a diet that eliminates gluten because of an idea that gluten-free is ‘healthier’. In my opinion most gluten-free products are less nutritious, taste terrible and are hugely overpriced.
The exception to this, of course, is if you are suffering from a gluten intolerance or allergy, Coeliac Disease or IBS. If you’ve been experiencing gastrointestinal cramps or excessive bloating or flatulence, feeling unusually tired or have ulcers in your mouth, you may have a gluten intolerance and should seek advice from your GP.
If not, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a bowl of pasta or slice of fresh bread as part of a balanced diet – it may just help lower your risk of diabetes!