There’s a big fad/trend component to the gluten-free diet right now. Research and consumer surveys show that far more people are “trying out” a gluten-free diet than have a medical reason to do so. Northern California restaurants are becoming trendier with gluten-free menus to attract the masses. But is it healthier for the general population?
For me, it’s rather enthralling to see gluten-free cuisine popping up in random Sacramento restaurants. Lately, even at coffee houses and grocery stores, because, alas, some of us have a bona fide medical allergy.
But the question is this: IS eating gluten-free healthier? Will you have more energy? Lose weight? Stave off disease or illness?
Certainly. IF you eliminate the “junk” gluten from your diet. Gluten, however, is considerable misunderstood.
Let me explain gluten. It is specific grains that include wheat, barley, rye, couscous and some oats.
The list is rather long if you add in all the wheat derivatives like kalmut and spelt too, but I’d be hard-pressed to ask anyone who didn’t have a gluten intolerance which food had spelt in it, or what spelt is.
Most gluten related products are simply processed foods such as cereals, chips, cookies and flour (bread, bagels, pastries) products, and most of those are mass marketed as easy, fast convenient fare.
The misnomer is many people think by eliminating gluten it will make one fitter, trimmer and protect against autoimmune disorders and certain cancers.
And yes, some of this is indeed true.
However, it is also true that whole grains are necessary for a healthy body if you do NOT have a gluten allergy.
Whole grains are fundamental in a healthy and truly balanced diet.
“Whole” meaning a real grain (not packaged like a chip or pretzel) – standard organic wheat or rye products.
In the beginning, all grains start as whole grains.
A simplified grain 101 synopsis:
In their natural state growing in the fields, whole grains are the entire seed of a plant. A kernel, really. They include the bran, the germ and endosperm. The bran is the multi-layered outer skin of the edible kernel and completely packed with B vitamins. The germ is the embryo which has the potential to sprout into a new plant. The germ contains protein, minerals and healthy fats. And lastly, the endosperm which is, by far, the largest portion of the kernel. It contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Whole grains are packed with essential nutrients including dietary fiber, B vitamins (thiamin, niacin and folate) and two of the most important nutrients our bodies need are in whole grains – magnesium and selenium.
Drastically cut all grains from your diet, and a few things will happen: lethargy, depression and yes, even weight gain. (See attached picture above.)
But how does the gluten-free community obtain whole grain nutrients if they are intolerant? Simply by consuming grains like brown rice, quinoa, amaranth and corn.
We are, though, in an era of gluten overload. I’ll explain why we all may want to at least minimize gluten.
Most gluten products are processed, manufactured foods.
The wheat/gluten we’re eating today is not what our parents ate, and certainly not what our grandparents ate – and also not what our counterparts in Europe are eating. Our homegrown American gluten is a completely foreign molecule that our bodies, namely our immune systems, have never dealt with evolutionarily. Just like when we shake hands with our friend who has a cold and our immune system sees that virus and launches the attack, it does the same with our modern gluten.
So is there an answer in the gluten-free world? Keep it simple. Count the ingredients. Avoid pretty packaged marketing gimmicks that call our foods “heart smart” and “packed with body building ingredients”.
That is nonsense. Food is simple. Real food is uncomplicated.
And those Northern California restaurants that offer gluten-free fare now? Bravo! It has offered choices, previously not offered, other than wheat-based foods by now substituting roasted vegetables and green salads.
Balance is fundamentally the key. Follow the adage: Everything in moderation.
Keep it clean, simple, and organic if possible. Your overall health is worth is. Recognize if symptoms such as depression, low concentration, anxiety, and weight gain appear. Please be wise and supplement the grains needed to nourish your temple for optimal health.