To gluten or not to gluten?

To gluten or not to gluten?
To gluten or not to gluten?

The gluten-free trend appears to be here to stay. Many rave about the health benefits, while others simply don’t understand all the hype. Nonetheless, walking into nearly any grocery store, one can easily find a section filled with a variety of gluten-free products ranging from bread to pastas to pastries. This begs the question, “Is gluten-free really the healthier option?”

Per WebMD, a gluten-free diet is not necessarily a healthier one. In an interview with the aforementioned site, Peter Green, MD, states that “any time you eliminate whole categories of food you’ve been used to eating, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies.”

Livestrong highlights that gluten is both high in protein and iron, and is a great protein substitute for those on vegetarian diets. “A 4-ounce serving of seitan, a meat substitute made entirely of gluten, contains about 50 percent of the recommended daily intake of protein or about 26 grams of protein.” Additionally, that same 4-ounce serving of seitan “contains 3.6 milligrams of iron, which is about 20 percent of your recommended intake.”

However, the average person, who is not a vegetarian, has many other options for sources of protein and iron. So again, would going gluten-free be safe or advisable for the average person?

It can be, but only when done with caution and awareness to what one puts in his or her body is it safe to take on a gluten-free diet. Wheat products that contain gluten often provide many other nutrients, such as B vitamins and fiber, which are essential to one’s health. When eliminating whole categories from the diet, it is important to incorporate other foods that contain the essential vitamins and minerals of the former food group.

Roughly only one percent of Americans have Celiac Disease, which is caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten, damaging the small intestine. Although the disease’s symptoms may include diarrhea, anemia, and a severe skin rash, few or no symptoms are often associated with the Celiac. Because of this, it is recommended that one get tested for the disease if there are any concerns. Ultimately, a gluten-free diet can be safe for the average person as long as he or she takes the right measures to re-incorporate the missing nutrients.


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