Pros And Cons Of Following A Gluten-Free Diet
Gluten is a naturally found protein in wheat, barley, rye, pasta, and some other cereals. It is the glue that adds a stretchy quality to a dough. Some people have a condition called celiac disease - a chronic digestive disorder, which causes inflammation of the small intestine in reaction to gluten-containing foods. There are also cases of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. On consuming anything containing gluten, they face allergic reactions like bloating, abdominal pain, indigestion, or diarrhea. For such people, it's prudent to follow a gluten-free diet to avoid these unpleasant situations.
Even though very few people in the world suffer from these conditions, the gluten-free diet is quite popular and supports a thriving industry. It's the latest weight-loss trend. There are gluten-free packaged foods and dedicated restaurants. People are going all gluten-free because of its perceived health benefits. But, contrary to popular belief, a gluten-free diet is not necessarily a healthier diet. Let's have a closer look and find out more about the pros and cons of going gluten-free.
Pros of a Gluten-Free Diet
1. Gluten is not a healthy protein
Your body doesn't really need this protein for muscle growth or nutrition. Gluten is not completely digested by the body and remains trapped in the small intestine even after digestion. So, even if you are eliminating gluten from your diet, it's not a loss of healthy protein.
2. Healthier food choices
Alternatives to gluten-containing grains are quinoa and buckwheat, which are highly nutritious. Quinoa is an excellent source of protein, while the buckwheat is loaded with vitamins and other micronutrients. Besides, a gluten-free diet can be very healthy if you are going for unprocessed whole foods, such as fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, fish, poultry, berries, etc.
3. Food awareness and restrictive diet
This is perhaps the best part about following a gluten-free diet, and probably the reason why people feel it's helping them lose weight. Increased food awareness inculcates healthy eating habits. If you are health conscious, you are probably aware that going all gluten-free involves more cooking as packaged foods contain processed carbs and are high in sugars. Home-cooked food, coupled with restrictive dietary practices, promote a healthy lifestyle.
Cons of a Gluten-Free Diet
1. Less fiber
Whole grains like wheat and barley are rich in fiber, essential nutrients, and are good for digestion. Eliminating these from your diet means you are depriving yourself of fiber, which plays an important role in regular bowel movements and keeps the digestive tract healthy. Daily dietary recommendation for fiber is 25 g for women and 38 g for men, which most of us rarely consume! Going gluten-free makes it even harder to achieve this target.
2. Less nutrition
Whole grains are rich sources of essential micronutrients. People following a gluten-free diet may face nutritional deficiencies from lack of enough iron, calcium, vitamin B, niacin, and many other important nutrients. In athletes and those following an active lifestyle, this diet is known to cause anemia.
3. Packaged foods
The gluten-free diet works best when you fill the void with the right foods. For example, if you are replacing the whole wheat bread with potato chips(which is gluten-free), it may not help you lose weight. The market is flooded with gluten-free pizza and pasta, but they are full of calories and saturated fats. On the other hand, whole wheat bread is a much healthier choice and also a convenient one.
4. May increase gluten sensitivity
Once you start following a gluten-free diet, it may become even harder for you to ingest this protein. Accidental ingestion may cause severe symptoms with weeks of unpleasant digestive issues.
If you are gluten-intolerant or diagnosed with celiac disease, go for a gluten-free diet. But, make sure to fill your plate with enough fiber, fruits, and vegetables. If you are not sensitive to gluten, it may be a better idea for you to stick to a regular diet containing whole grains. In any case, follow a well-balanced diet - gluten or no gluten.