It seems as though an idea is running rampant, and gluten free is sweeping the nation. Everything is gluten free this, or gluten free that, but is it actually healthier? Well, that really depends.

A. Do you have Celiac Disease?

B. Do you have negative reactions to gluten?

C. Do you have a disease that gluten can negatively influence?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then please go for gluten free. Your health always takes first priority and it is no diet fad for you.

If you answered no to all of the above questions, then gluten is probably fine to have in your diet. Going gluten free does not mean free of all carbs, it just means free of the protein from wheat, barley, or rye. While it can be a perfectly healthy option, by definition it doesn’t make your diet healthier.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, and a few other grains. It adds elasticity to dough, and is often added to foods that would not otherwise have protein. Gluten is commonly a main ingredient in imitation meat because it’s a very versatile protein that easily takes on different flavors.

What does gluten-free really include? A gluten free diet would consist of foods that contain no traces (less than 20 ppm by US Standards) of gluten. No wheat, barley, rye, or triticale, and nothing that are byproducts of them. This rules out most bread, pastas, soy sauce, gravies, baked goods, soups, and many condiments like ketchup and sometimes even ice cream. Since wheat based flour is so widely used as a thickening agent, many foods that wouldn’t normally contain gluten do as a way to reach proper consistency. A true gluten free diet can be very difficult, not to mention expensive particularly if you aren’t doing your own cooking.

Is gluten free so terrible? Gluten free is not bad, it just isn’t necessarily as great as many people think it is. Almond flour is growing in popularity, but from a calorie stand it is far richer in calories, with nearly 50% more calories for equivalent amounts. So if weight loss is your goal, there might be more effective options than gluten free. A gluten free cake is still a cake after all. Eliminating the added sugars will actually be far more beneficial to your health over the long run.

What are some signs of a gluten intolerance? While mild bloating can be a normal reaction to gluten, severe bloating along with any of the following symptoms could be an indicator of a gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease: sores on skin or in the mouth, arthritis, rashes, diarrhea, anemia, cramps or even seizures. If you are worried you might have Celiac Disease, be sure to get yourself tested while you are still eating gluten for accurate results, and then once you know adjust your diet accordingly.

Becca Capell
iFit Head Trainer