Are You Better Off Without Wheat? - Part 1
Should you be nixing all of the wheat from your diet for weight loss and better health? You might think so given the recent bashing bread, bagels, and baked goods are getting. Gluten is the main protein in wheat, rye, and barley. It gives bread its chewy texture and helps baked goods rise. Having a gluten-free diet, just like being vegetarian, going Paleo, or eating all organic, doesn't automatically make you healthier. There is a wide range in the quality of gluten-containing and gluten-free foods, as well as, different levels of intolerance and sensitivity.
Many people lose weight and feel more energized when they go gluten-free simply because they cut out highly processed wheat products, such as white bagels, baked goods, crackers, and cold cereal while replacing these foods with more fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious starches, including sweet potatoes and brown rice. High quality wheat bread and minimally-processed, gluten-containing whole grains, such as wheat berries, couscous, spelt, and bulgur can be part of a very healthy diet for those people looking to reduce gluten, but not needing to avoid it due to intolerance or sensitivity.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition causing an allergic reaction to wheat and is a very serious condition. Eating gluten results in damage to the intestinal walls, leading to malabsorption of nutrients. It is essential for celiacs to avoid ALL gluten, look for gluten-free products (indicated with the symbol below) and be aware of cross-contamination. Even toasting gluten-free bread in a toaster that had wheat bread can be enough to cause an allergic reaction for someone with celiac disease!
Many other people are sensitive to gluten/wheat and benefit from going gluten-free or eating very little gluten. Conditions related to inflammation, such as arthritis, Hashimoto's Disease, psoriasis, and fibromyalgia are often improved when gluten is removed from the diet. Even people without these conditions can reap the potential benefits of being gluten-free, including feeling more energized, better focus and mental acuity, and losing weight simply because they're replacing higher calorie foods with more nutritious, lower calorie alternatives.
For more information, check out Gluten Guidelines – Part 2