The gluten-free diet is seen as one of the best ways to lose weight and improve overall well-being, but it’s not that simple to do it well.
The gluten-free diet has gained a lot of popularity as a technique for weight loss and improving general well-being.
This diet involves the exclusion of all foods that contain a set of vegetable proteins – gluten proteins – which are difficult to digest in the gastrointestinal tract of more susceptible individuals. Foods rich in gluten are those that classically have wheat, rye and barley cereals – or derivatives – as a base.
However, is it really beneficial to remove cereals from your diet, even if you do not have any intolerance to their protein portion?
WHO SHOULD FOLLOW A GLUTEN-FREE DIET?
Gluten is the name given to the family of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and spelled. The name contains the Latin word for glue (“glue”), since the main property of these proteins is to provide consistency and elasticity after mixing with water.
Some people suffer from an autoimmune gastrointestinal disease, celiac disease, developing some unpleasant symptoms after consuming foods with gluten. This disease can cause damage to the intestinal wall, making it difficult to absorb nutrients in children, affecting normal growth and development.
This diet must be followed in 3 specific cases: celiac disease, non-celiac gluten intolerance and wheat protein allergy.
Celiac disease has an autoimmune origin, that is, it involves an exacerbated immunological reaction to the presence of gluten in the intestine, and affects around 1% of the population.
Celiac patients may experience symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, eczema, bloating, anemia, tiredness and depression.
Non-celiac gluten intolerance
In addition to celiac disease, there is another form of gluten sensitivity, called non-celiac, which is frequently discussed and is highly controversial among healthcare professionals.
Although it does not have the same autoimmune mechanism, the symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity can be similar to those of celiac disease.
Wheat protein allergy
Finally, another disease that is associated with gluten is wheat protein allergy, but it is relatively rare, especially in adults, and affects less than 1% of the world’s population.
AVOID ON A GLUTEN-FREE DIET
Completely avoiding gluten can be a complicated task, mainly because cereals and their flours are an almost indispensable part of many of the foods that we consider essential in our daily lives.
Gluten’s primary sources in the diet are:
- Bran and wheat flour, spelled, kaput and semolina;
- Rye and foods containing it;
- Barley and foods containing it;
- Oats, due to cross-contamination with the above cereals, which occurs in processing centers;
- Brewer’s yeast.
As cereals are the main source of gluten, some foods can be problematic for people who are intolerant to it, such as:
- Wheat, rye and barley bread ;
- Pasta and couscous ;
- Breakfast cereals ;
- Pastry and confectionery products such as cakes, muffins, pizzas and desserts;
- Snack foods such as sweets, cereal bars, biscuits, ready-made meals, some types of crisps and some types of nuts;
- Sauces such as soy, teriyaki, hoisin, marinades and some salad dressings;
- Drinks such as beer and whiskey.
Therefore, the simplest and easiest way to avoid gluten is to try to eat foods that are lightly processed or contain only one ingredient – such as milk, fruits and vegetables, or unprocessed nuts.
Another way is to read the labels carefully and ensure that names such as:
- Wheat and variants, rye, barley and oats;
- Malt, malt extract and malt syrup;
- Cereals (without indicating the origin);
- Starch…/modified starch;
- Vegetable protein (without indicating the origin);
- Dietary fibers (without indicating the origin);
- Additives from the E-14XX group.
WHAT FOODS SHOULD BE IN A GLUTEN-FREE DIET?
- All meat and fish, unless breaded, such as goldfish.
- Dairy products, except some flavored ones.
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Grains such as rice, quinoa, tapioca, millet, corn, buckwheat and oats, as long as they are labeled “gluten-free”.
- Starches and flours based on potatoes, corn, soy, almonds and coconut.
- Oilseeds, including nuts and seeds, as long as they are unprocessed.
- Vegetable oils and creams.
- Most drinks, except beer and whiskey.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN MISTAKES MADE BY THOSE ON A GLUTEN-FREE DIET?
Not interpreting labels correctly
It’s quite easy to eliminate bread and crackers from your diet. However, there is much more to a gluten-free diet than eliminating these foods. Reading the labels is essential since, as mentioned above, not all ingredients are limited to wheat or rye.
Denominations or terms such as starch, vegetable proteins, vegetable fiber and even some additives can be synonyms for gluten that easily escape the eyes of those who just look for the names of the cereals in the list of ingredients.
As the industry is not legally obliged to list all ingredients that contain gluten – only those that contain wheat, an allergen –, the easiest thing is to choose foods that contain the designation “gluten-free” or gluten- free .
Consider that all gluten-free foods are healthy
It is important to clarify that many gluten-free foods, including cakes, cookies and snacks, are highly processed, rich in Trans fats and sugar, and can easily contribute to weight gain.
Poor meal planning
Although there are more and more options, the gluten-free diet can be somewhat limiting and sometimes monotonous, mainly because a good part of the meals – especially the “cheat-meals” – are based on some type of cereal.
It is already confirmed that a gluten-free diet for life is the only form of treatment for celiac disease and opportunities to “sin” can result in complications that, when repeated frequently, range from vitamin deficiencies to a significant increase in risk. Of colon cancer.
However, knowing these risks is not enough for many people and in fact, around ¼ of people diagnosed with celiac disease do not adhere correctly to their diet.
Believing that a gluten-free diet will solve all health problems
If you have celiac disease or have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a gluten-free diet will undoubtedly improve your digestion and energy levels, among other benefits.
However, don’t expect this diet to solve all your health problems. For example, although some people lose weight with this diet – which is one of the main reasons for its popularity – not everyone has the same results and some people even gain weight.
Furthermore, other problems such as specific nutritional deficiencies and constipation can result from a gluten-free diet.
Studies indicate that following a gluten-free diet does not prevent or treat specific nutritional deficiencies. This is due to the fact that people who follow this diet opt for processed foods to the detriment of more nutritious ones such as fruits and vegetables.
On the other hand, most gluten-free foods are not fortified with B vitamins, including folic acid. Since fortified bread is an interesting source of these vitamins, people following a gluten-free diet are at risk of deficiency.
As for constipation, it is common knowledge that fiber intake is extremely important for intestinal health. However, assuming that the gluten-free diet involves the elimination of important sources of fiber – such as bread and other grain and cereal derivatives – constipation is one of the side effects of this diet.
At the same time, the vast majority of gluten-free substitutes are extremely low in fiber, which can make constipation even worse.