There always seems to be a new type of diet trending these days, and one of the most popular ones lately is gluten-free. Though it was originally more of a nutritional choice for those with gluten allergies or intolerances, an increasing number of people are going gluten-free for a whole host of other reasons, from boosting their energy to losing weight to reducing inflammation.
Does going gluten-free really help with these kinds of problems, though? There are a lot of myths out there surrounding gluten, so before you decide to try the diet yourself, keep reading to find out the facts from the fiction.
1. Fiction: Gluten is Bad for You
Fact: Unless you have a wheat allergy, gluten sensitivity, or celiac disease, gluten by itself isn’t bad for your body. Gluten is simply a binding protein that is found in grains like barley, wheat, and rye, and may also be added to other foods to help them maintain their shape.
Whole grains that contain gluten can be quite nutritious, as they tend to be full of fibre and various vitamins and minerals. However, if you really want to follow a gluten-free diet, you can get similar benefits from gluten-free whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, and sorghum.
2. Fiction: Our Bodies Aren’t Meant to Process Gluten
Fact: Unless you have a diagnosed sensitivity or intolerance, you should have no issue processing gluten. Now, it is true that our bodies don’t make the enzymes necessary to break down the complex proteins that make up gluten, but our immune systems are there to help with this process as needed.
3. Fiction: Most People Have a Gluten Sensitivity
Fact: Only a small portion of the population may have a gluten sensitivity. In fact, a 2017 study showed that just 1% of Americans have celiac disease, while only up to 6% of the US population may have a more general gluten sensitivity.
The prevalence of gluten sensitivity is just an estimate, though, as there is currently no official diagnostic test. Instead, it’s a rule-out diagnosis, meaning a wheat allergy and celiac disease must be ruled out before diagnosing someone with a gluten sensitivity.
4. Fiction: You’ll Lose Weight on a Gluten-Free Diet
Fact: A gluten-free diet can be just as unhealthy as any other diet, so don’t be fooled into thinking that food labels with the words “gluten-free” are weight loss-friendly options. A gluten-free dessert, for example, is likely still going to be loaded with fat and sugar, which certainly won’t help anyone lose weight. In fact, sometimes gluten-free products contain even more sugar, salt, and fat than gluten-containing products to make up for taste and texture, so make sure you read the nutrition labels.
Now, some people do lose weight while following a gluten-free diet, but that isn’t necessarily due to avoiding gluten. Gluten-free diets typically involve cutting back on a lot of processed foods, like fast food and baked goods, which often contain a lot of sugar, unhealthy fats, and calories. It is likely that the weight loss benefits come from consuming less of these kinds of foods, not gluten specifically.