By Isabelle Huang
Grocery store shelves and restaurants are increasing their variety of gluten-free options as more and more people begin adopting gluten-free diets. While a portion of these individuals do so because of celiac disease, a genetic disorder which interferes with nutrient absorption in the intestinal tract, others pursue this eating habit based on consumer fads.
This begs the question: what is gluten, and are there any possible benefits behind a gluten-free diet?
Gluten is a type of protein most commonly found in wheat, barley, rye, and those grain derivatives, foods that are associated with a rich source of fiber and other complex carbs, B vitamins, and minerals. Some of the gluten-free grains listed here provide you with these vitamins and minerals, while non-grain sources of fiber can be found here.
Those who’ve gone gluten-free often say that they feel an improvement in weight, energy, and productivity, three reasons that encourage others to follow the same path. However, studies show that these effects are not necessarily due to the lack of gluten itself, but rather other food components that are found in gluten-containing products. A few of the differences between gluten and gluten-free diets are number of calories, and amounts of sodium and fiber.
Gluten rich grains, such as whole wheat bread, pasta and cereals, have become pantry staples. When eliminating these, instead choosing a gluten-free substitute, smaller amounts are often consumed because the product has a different taste and texture. This results in a decrease in overall calories that can cause weight loss.
The gluten-free diet does benefit some individuals. According to Beyond Celiac, an organization for celiac awareness, those diagnosed negative for celiac may exhibit similar symptoms of prevalent GI-distress, frequent headaches, and joint pain. These individuals might be gluten-sensitive or gluten-intolerant, and a gluten-free diet may mitigate these responses.
If you choose to go gluten-free, make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need for maintaining your health!
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