If sugar and meat were the most blamed foods in the past, now they have been replaced by gluten. More and more celebrities are giving up glutinous grains, arguing loudly that they have only gained from this change.
Although you may not initially find them in almost any store, gluten-free foods are now commonplace. Supermarkets are full of products that proudly carry the “Gluten-Free” label, and many restaurants now offer gluten-free food options. But is it really worth it?
Gluten- what is it?
Gluten is a protein complex found especially in wheat and its relatives. Other cereals (rye, oats, barley) also contain various forms of gluten (significant for those with celiac disease). Gluten is the component of flour that allows bread and bakery products to have that elastic texture. That’s why a polenta or a rice cake doesn’t “grow” the way bread grows.
Gluten is a complex compound, made up of chains of amino acids (protein), with various structures depending on the type of cereal it comes from. In addition to its delicious taste and texture, gluten can cause various health problems. These problems occur both in the digestive tract and in the immune system or even for neurons. Gluten also contains opioids (eg: gliadin morphine) that can cause drowsiness, addiction and can affect the entire neurohormonal system.
Where do we find gluten in?
We find gluten in all foods that contain, directly or indirectly, wheat ingredients and related grains. Gluten-free cereals (corn, rice) do not have this component. It can also be found in foods that use malt (or malt extract, as a flavor enhancer) and other cereal / wheat / gluten derivatives. A food can be naturally gluten free (virtually all foods except wheat and its relatives). For those with intolerance it is enough but for those with celiac disease a special certification is needed for processed foods (which contain several ingredients). This insurance is needed because contamination (unintentional, obviously) can occur in kitchens or factories.
Consequences of eliminating gluten from the diet
Avoiding gluten means more than giving up traditional bread, cereals, pasta, pizza and beer. Gluten is hidden in many other products, including frozen vegetables, sauces, soy sauce, some “natural flavored” foods, vitamin and mineral supplements, some medications, and even toothpaste. This makes a gluten-free diet extremely difficult to follow.
If you are determined to give up gluten, it is important to know that this can lead to certain nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin-rich breads and cereals have become a major source of B vitamins in the United States. Although breads made with white rice, tapioca, and other gluten-free flours are becoming more common, they are generally not rich in vitamins. This can be a problem for anyone, but it is especially worrying for women who are pregnant or about to become pregnant. They need vitamin B9, more commonly known as folic acid, to prevent birth defects.
Whole wheat is also a major source of dietary fiber, which the intestines need to function properly. “The average American diet is low in fiber,” says Dr. Leffler. “Remove the whole wheat and make it worse.” You may get the fiber you need from other grains, such as brown rice and quinoa, or from fruits, vegetables, and beans, but you’ll need to work hard.
Decreases the risk of anxiety, depression or more serious illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease
Specialists have shown a clear link between gut health and brain health. When we give up gluten, it also reduces inflammation in the gut and, it seems, inflammation in the brain.
Thus, we will face fewer episodes of anxiety and depression or even decrease the risk of more serious conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The downside is that these positive effects come over time and only if we have a proper lifestyle and diet (we do not supplement with products that do more harm than good).
You can gain weight, but also lose weight
Both are the effects of the same step: giving up gluten. Does it surprise you? If you’ve read this carefully, you probably know the answer: if you take care of your diet (best supervised by a nutritionist), do not fall prey to food cravings and do not replace gluten with sugar, you have every chance of losing weight. If not, you may even gain a few extra pounds.
Eliminate digestive problems such as constipation and bloating
It’s all about inflammation of the intestines. As you stop eating gluten, the inflammation in the body, not only from that level, decreases, which should lead to a clearly improved digestion and the elimination of other annoying digestive symptoms. However, it also depends on the other food choices.
If we put together the information gathered, we will see that giving up gluten is by no means a magic formula by which we will lose weight or have an enviable health. However, in combination with other food choices, it may or may not be an alternative to a healthier lifestyle.
So, are you team gluten or gluten-free? 🙂