Going gluten free may be beneficial if you're among the roughly 10 percent of people who suffer from celiac disease, a genetic immune disorder, or some other form of gluten intolerance or sensitivity that causes gastrointestinal issues. But if you're not in that group, adopting a gluten-free diet may not be the best choice.
Terri Taylor, a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at HonorHealth's Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, encourages choosing gluten-free foods wisely in this Q&A.
What is gluten?
Simply put, gluten is a protein in grains like wheat, rye, oats and barley. It's found in cereal, pasta, bread, beer, chips, crackers and more.
It seems that going gluten-free has become the latest diet fad whether it's due to an increase in gluten sensitivity or the greater accessibility of gluten-free processed and pre-packaged foods and baking products.
Does gluten free mean healthy?
Unfortunately, eating a gluten-free diet doesn't automatically mean it's good for you. Often, the refined grains in gluten-free products lack fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals. These products can be high in fat and added sugar. Getting too much sugar causes a host of other health issues, not the least of which is weight gain.
You should know that eating gluten free is not the same as eating a diet low in carbohydrates. If you make that mistake, you tend to overindulge or choose items you wouldn't otherwise include in your diet. A case in point is a gluten-free version of a popular marshmallow cereal. That's never a good idea — gluten free or not.
What are the side effects of gluten-free eating?
For those with no medical reason to avoid gluten, eating processed and refined gluten-free foods can lead to constipation or other bowel issues, anemia and/or iron deficiency, and more.