A gluten free diet is closely related to a wheat free diet and is an increasingly popular choice these days, either for personal reasons, or due to serious health complications caused by gluten, as is the case with Celiac disease. despite the growing popularity of the diet, there are some challenges inherent in adopting a gluten free lifestyle. here we will highlight exactly what gluten is, which foods contain it, and some common challenges of avoiding gluten.
Gluten is a protein commonly found in a variety of grains, including wheat and wheat products, rye, and barley. Gluten serves to increase the elasticity and therefore the "chewiness" of the dough. Gluten is also often added to others foods as a stabilizer or thickener. Gluten isn't necessarily harmful, except for individuals who have gluten intolerance or sensitivities, or those with Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition resulting in intestinal damage from ingesting gluten.
Because of the pervasive use of wheat and wheat products in many modern foods, adopting a gluten free diet can be challenging. Gluten is found in breads, pastas, pizza, cake, and even some ice cream products and frozen vegetables. Purchasing specialty grain products labeled "gluten free" can be more expensive and can be a strain on one's budget if absolutely all gluten must be avoided. Furthermore, gluten free diets heavily rely on consuming meats, fruits and vegetables, eggs, and dairy, which are also often more expensive than diets consisting of processed foods.
The number of foods that unsuspectingly contain gluten can also make a gluten free lifestyle difficult. Many foods contain wheat or wheat products, and therefore gluten as well, and it can be challenging to avoid these foods altogether. The solution to this is to read product labels carefully and to educate oneself about the variety of grain products and crossbreeds that contain gluten. But fortunately for those wishing to adopt a gluten free diet, many healthy foods are naturally free of gluten. Keep in mind, Gluten-free products can be high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates, and some have stated going gluten-free has actually caused them to gain weight. That said, so long as you continue to eat a balanced diet, cutting gluten normally won't cause any harm.
The adjustments of habits and vigilance while dining out of the home are often cited as the biggest challenges for people attempting to avoid gluten. People often have to locate and purchase new products, resist certain foods that they enjoy, and even possibly avoid foods prepared by others. It can be difficult to choose freely from restaurant menus or to make gluten free choices at social events. An additional challenge occurs when a person successfully avoids gluten for a period of time, but then ingests it again, either through cross-contamination or by choice. This can cause gastrointestinal upset, or other more serious symptoms for individuals with Celiac disease.
Despite the challenges, the diet has many benefits for some and is essential for others. Going gluten free isn’t really a choice for people with Celiac disease because avoiding gluten is the primary way to control the symptoms and complications of the condition. But for those who do not have Celiac disease, and instead have gluten intolerance or maybe just want to avoid gluten as a personal choice, the benefits can often outweigh the inconvenience. While some people report an increase in energy after adopting the diet, there is not conclusive evidence that gluten negatively affects all who consume it. Choosing to go gluten-free could help you lose weight and can eliminate a ton of processed foods from your diet like bagels, cookies and cereal. It is also in many foods that you may not expect, like salad dressings, yogurt and cold cuts. By eliminating your intake of these products, the calories and fat that you are cutting from your diet can help you to shed the pounds.
Whether one chooses to go gluten free or not, and despite the challenges in doing so, this dietary trend is clearly gaining momentum. Those contemplating a gluten free diet are encouraged to do their homework and plan ahead in order to make the diet work long-term.
Laura Holt, for Agrilicious!