Gluten-free has been picking up a lot of steam these days, especially in circles that aren’t even medically required to eat gluten-free, i.e. people not afflicted with celiac disease or the like. For those that don’t know, gluten-free is a diet that contains no gluten. Duh, this should have been pretty obvious. So the more pointed question becomes, what then is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, malts, barely, and triticale. Often it is added to food to serve as a flavor enhancer or thickening agent, often referred to as dextrin. Additionally, those in the medical community are split over whether or not oats should be excluded from a gluten-free diet.
Now, you may be wondering if all starches contain gluten. The resounding answer is NO. There are certainly starches you can include in your diet if you are considering a gluten-free approach. Examples include, corn, potatoes, rice, quinoa, chai seed, taro, and yams, among others. Additionally, buckwheat (despite its name) is not an actual wheat and is considered appropriate for a gluten-free diet.
Is Gluten-Free For Me?
Well, that’s just not something I can answer. Every body is different, so what works for one may not work for another. My suggestion would be to go one week without any forms of gluten. Cut out the pasta, breads, cereals, baked goods, etc. Be aware of the fact that gluten is used as a thickening agent and can be found in things like ketchup and other sauces as well. After a week’s time, take the time to examine yourself. How do you feel? How are you functioning?
Some people report fewer headaches, stomach problems, etc. while on a gluten-free diet. Others report feeling no better or worse. Studies show up to 12% of the population may have some level of gluten intolerance. If you think it’s worth investigating, follow the tips above and see how you feel.
What About Weight Loss?
Gluten-free in and of itself isn’t what brings about weight loss for most people. Cut out bread, pasta, and other refined carbs from a persons diet and they’re likely to start losing weight. So, from that regard, it’s not the fact you aren’t eating gluten that is causing you to lose weight; it’s the fact you are eliminating a lot of empty calories and simple carbohydrates that has you dropping pounds. This is the reason I enjoy the gluten-free approach. Notice I said “approach”. I’m not 100% gluten-free. I opt for gluten-free meals several times a week not because I have to, but because I find it helps me keep muscle on, fuel my workouts, and leaves me feeling good and lean. I do find that a gluten-free diet can be a very healthy diet, i.e. heavy on lean meats (although you could easily change this for fatty meats), loads of veggies and to a lesser degree fruits, high on fiber, and plenty of legumes. When I try to eat gluten-free I find myself eating more of the healthy, anti-oxidant rich foods we should all be eating more of anyways.
Now, one thing to note…if you’re going through the grocery store and stockpiling gluten-free cookies, pastas, and the such, don’t expect weight loss; weight GAIN is most likely in your future. Remember, gluten-free isn’t this magic healthy bullet for guaranteed weight loss. If you take a sensible approach to your diet and include elements of a gluten-free lifestyle for better health AND weight loss, you’ll have much better luck than someone going gluten-free simply for weight loss.
Before I give my recommendation, a quick disclaimer; I am not a registered dietitian. If you are thinking about changing your diet, please do us both a favor and speak to your doctor or an actual registered dietitian first. That said, I think going gluten-free is something everyone should try at least once. What do you have to lose? Go gluten-free and simply see how you feel. Do you feel more energetic and healthy? Many people who go gluten-free report feelings of increased energy, less depression, and improved health. You’ll never know until you try. With that in mind, I would not recommend going gluten-free for strictly weight loss benefits. There are too many other ways to go about doing it that aren’t as restrictive. Personally, I combine both the gluten-free approach with intermittent fasting. As some of you know, intermittent fasting is taking a full day fast every 2-4 days.
By combining my gluten-free lunches and dinners 2-3 days a week, with my once or twice a week fast, I’ve managed to get myself into the best shape of my life and have adopted not a hard to stick to diet, but a lifestyle change that works for me. Find what works for you, determine the effects on your health, and then run with it.