Gluten-Free Diet: Benefits and Disadvantages
The benefits of a gluten free diet are many. You will get better health care, you will live longer, your children will have healthier life chances and so much more. However, there are some drawbacks as well. There are several possible reasons why someone might choose to go gluten free diet.
Some of them may include:
You want to avoid wheat or another grain that causes digestive problems in most people.
You don’t like the taste of wheat.
Your child has food allergies or intolerances.
You’re concerned about your own health and want to avoid foods with high sugar content. (See Sugar Free Diet)
If you decide to go gluten free diet, it’s important to understand that you need to follow the diet strictly for at least six months before trying out any other diets such as paleo, raw vegan or ketogenic diets.
How Do I Know If My Child Is Gluten Sensitive?
There are two types of gluten sensitivity. One type is caused by eating gluten while the other one is due to consuming foods containing cross contamination from other grains such as rye, barley or oats. When you eat these kinds of contaminated grains, your body reacts negatively and produces antibodies against the proteins found in those grains. These antibodies cause inflammation in your small intestine which leads to diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps.
Because there is no specific test to determine if someone is gluten sensitive, most physicians rely on patient history and symptoms to make a diagnosis. In addition to going gluten free diet, other treatment options may include taking supplements such as zinc or probiotics.
However, in some cases, the tests may come back positive even though you don’t have any of the symptoms of celiac disease. This is why it’s important to speak with a medical professional about your concerns before starting any new diet.
What Are the Dangers of Gluten Free Diet?
Gluten-free food is more expensive than food with gluten and many people on a gluten free diet complain that the food just isn’t as tasty. This is why some people believe that going gluten-free is a first-world problem. The truth is that a gluten free diet can be dangerous for some people because of malnutrition. Gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean healthy. Many foods labeled as “gluten-free” still have high-sugar or fat content which causes weight gain and other medical problems to the individual.
Gluten-free bread, for example, might be free of gluten but it’s probably got plenty of carbs and sugars that could lead to obesity over time. Other foods such as gluten-free pasta, cookies, cakes and other pastries are loaded with unhealthy fats and sugars. In fact, many of these foods contain more sugar and fat than their traditional counterparts! This type of diet is also very expensive which makes it difficult for people on a budget to stick with it in the long-term.
If you have celiac disease or are highly sensitive to gluten, then going on a gluten free diet is ideal. You’ll feel better and have more energy as a result. However, if you don’t suffer from these medical conditions, then it probably isn’t necessary to go on a gluten free diet.
This doesn’t mean that you can just start gorging on bread, bagels and pasta. You still need to watch your portions and eat a balanced diet. Many people find that they do better by slowly eliminating gluten from their diets instead of going cold turkey. It typically takes about six months before you notice any significant changes in weight or how you feel overall.
When you go shopping for new foods, look for whole, unprocessed foods. Instead of eating gluten-free cereal, try eating plain oatmeal. Instead of eating gluten-free bread, try eating a sandwich using lettuce as the “bread.” Some new types of gluten-free flour, such as almond meal, don’t have the same texture as wheat but they can still make a delicious and healthy baked good.
It’s all a matter of finding what works best for you!
Gluten Sensitivity vs. Celiac Disease
Some people claim to have a gluten sensitivity but the problem is that this is not an officially recognized medical condition. Many of these people actually suffer from celiac disease but haven’t been officially diagnosed. It’s also possible that they do not have any type of gluten intolerance at all and are just claiming to have “feelings” when they eat gluten.
Gluten sensitivity is a controversial topic in the medical community. Many studies have been done but few have actually proven that a person can be sensitive to gluten but not have celiac disease or an allergy to it. However, it is recommended that those with a gluten sensitivity follow a gluten free diet, at the very least, to rule out the possibility that they may have undiagnosed celiac disease.
What Gluten Is
Gluten is a term used to describe a mixture of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. It gives elasticity to dough and helps baked goods such as bread, pizza and pasta maintain their shape and not fall apart.
The problem with gluten is that it can be difficult for some people to digest. This can lead to an array of symptoms including bloating, diarrhea and malnutrition in extreme cases.
Gluten-containing grains have been a large part of the human diet for thousands of years. It has been estimated that the cultivation of wheat began about 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent (an area that encompasses parts of modern day Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran and Israel). Some scholars believe that wheat was first cultivated in Egypt even earlier than this.
Most ancient civilizations heavily relied on grains such as wheat for nutrition. Grains could be easily stored for long periods of time and cultivated to feed large populations.
Today, wheat is one of the most common sources of calories in the Western diet. It is found in cereal, breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, crackers and many other foods. It’s also used in the production of beer and is often found in processed foods like frozen dinners and pizza. It can be difficult to avoid unless you make a conscious effort to do so.
Gluten Free Alternatives to Common Foods
Food Gluten Free Substitutes Rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tapioca, and other root vegetables Pasta Zucchini, squash, pumpkin Teff Ezekiel bread (Ezekiel 4:9) Millet, Amaranth Buckwheat Crumpets, English muffins Corn tortillas Muffins Corn cakes Pancakes Waffles Baking mixes made with rice flour or other gluten free flours Tortilla chips Tortilla chips made with rice flour or other gluten free flours Bread crumbs Crushed up gluten free crackers Breaded foods that don’t contain a breadcrumb coating like chicken fingers Banned
Gluten Free Baking Tips
Baking is an art and can be very tempermental. Even if you follow a recipe to the letter, it doesn’t mean the baked good will turn out right every time. This is especially true with gluten free baked goods.
Adhere to the recipe: The first step to making a high quality product is having all of the ingredients specified in the recipe. Many recipes call for a specific brand of ingredient because that’s what they’ve found to work best.
Sift the dry ingredients: Some recipes call for sifting the flour or other dry ingredients. Sifting helps to break up clumps and give a more smooth texture to the finished product. This is especially important with gluten free baked goods because all clumps can turn into rocks if not broken up properly.
Be patient: Gluten free baked goods often take longer to prepare and are typically prepared using the method of “mix, let rise, mix, let rise” as opposed to “mix, fill pans, let rise, bake.” Patience is of the utmost importance when it comes to gluten free baked goods.
Bake at a lower temperature for a longer time: Gluten acts as a binding agent in traditional baking recipes. With gluten free flours, you usually need to use more of them to achieve the right texture. This can lead to a dried out product if the proper precautions aren’t taken. Most gluten free recipes call for ingredients to be baked at a lower temperature for a longer period of time.
This helps to dry out the product enough so that it doesn’t turn to mush when the temperature is raised.
Use liquids sparingly: Gluten free baked goods often need more moisture than their traditional counterparts. This is why you’ll notice many gluten free recipes call for large amounts of eggs, fruit juices, and vegetable oils. Using too much liquid can lead to a gooey, wet product that doesn’t have the right texture.
Use starches: One ingredient you’ll see in many gluten free recipes is cornstarch or other types of starch. This ingredient acts as a binding agent and helps to give the product more of a bread-like texture. You can also add additional gluten free flour to give the product more substance.
Add gums: Just like starches, different gums can be used to help bind your gluten free baked goods. The most common being xanthan gum which is what gives many gluten free breads that recognizable texture.
Is Gluten Intolerance Real?
Many people are claiming to have a gluten intolerance. Doctors are seeing more and more patients complaining about the ill effects they get after consuming gluten.
But how real is it? And what is the difference between someone who is gluten intolerant and someone who just eats too much bread?
There is definitely some truth to the matter. For some people, the gluten found in wheat, barley and rye does cause negative reactions. It’s not celiac disease or even a wheat allergy; it’s something different all together.
Currently it’s widely believed that it’s an autoimmune disorder. In other words, the body is attacking itself due to the ingestion of gluten. This causes inflammation which can lead to a multitude of different problems in the body. These can include:
bone or joint pain
headaches or migraines
People who suffer from gluten intolerance don’t usually have all of these symptoms and they aren’t caused by gluten 100% of the time. These are just the manifestations that have been seen most frequently.
It’s also possible that you can have some of these symptoms and not even know it. As stated before, gluten intolerance isn’t as cut and dry as a wheat allergy or even celiac disease. The reaction can vary greatly from one person to the next.
How are dieticians dealing with this new plague of gluten intolerance?
The typical advice is to just completely eliminate gluten from your diet. No more bread, pastas, cereals, and baked goods of any kind.
For some people, this is easy to do and they feel better. For others, it’s a complete waste of time. They feel the same or even feel worse due to lack of nutrition.
The only way to truly know is to eliminate gluten from your diet and monitor how you feel. This can take weeks or months to see any results mainly because gluten can stay in your system for awhile. It can take up to 3 months before it’s completely out of your system.
If eliminating gluten is the solution, then what can you eat?
The standard diet for gluten intolerance is basically meat, fruits and vegetables. Grains are completely eliminated as are any processed foods, sugars, and most dairy.
This can be a difficult transition to make but as with anything, once you get used to it your body will thank you in the long run.
Gluten is an inherently unhealthy product for the human body. It lacks nutrients and has been shown to have a negative impact on people of all ages. By eliminating it from your diet, you’ll not only improve your game and appearance, but you’ll also feel better overall.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go enjoy a bowl of gluten.
Do you have any experience with gluten? How do you feel about it?
Let me know in the comments!
If you want to read my other articles: you can read my write-ups of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, write-ups of Super Mario 64 or read my in-depth analysis of Metroid.
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