6 Myths about Gluten-Free Diets (Slideshow)
For decades, people with Celiac disease and other sensitivities to gluten have struggled to educate their friends and family about their condition, and even find the foods they need to eat a healthy, balanced diet. In the past few years, however, awareness of gluten-free living has exploded, and even people without recognized gluten intolerances are going along for the ride. For some followers, and their critics, eating gluten-free is just a fad; for others, it’s the only way to manage a serious medical condition. So it comes as no surprise that there are plenty of half truths and even myths out there surrounding gluten-free eating.
Click through to dispel some of the myths surrounding gluten.
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1. Myth: Gluten Free Diets can Help Anyone Lose Weight.
Reality: Want to cut out gluten to shed some pounds? Think again. Adopting a gluten-free diet — without a clear medical reason to — is not the best strategy for losing weight. Why? Well, if you’re simply trading foods with gluten in them for foods without gluten, you could very well end up gaining weight, because gluten-free foods are often more calorie dense than the alternative. Even people with Celiac’s can and often do, gain weight from going gluten-free, because their body can actually absorb these nutrients better.
That doesn’t mean you won’t lose weight — as with any diet, if you make good food choices, including plenty of fruits, veggies, protein and healthy gluten-free foods, you can certainly lose weight. But don’t think that replacing your gluten foods with the gluten-free alternative is a failsafe way to lose a few pounds.
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2. Myth: People with Celiac Disease Aren’t Nearly As Sensitive as They Claim to Be.
Reality: People with Celiac disease are supposed to steer clear of even the smallest amounts of gluten. So, yes, that means that a gluten-free baked good made on the same table as a wheat bread, for instance, can set off a terrible attack. Some people with Celiac disease can’t even walk down the bread aisle at the grocery store without feeling uncomfortable.
Different celiac patients have different levels of tolerance. You may have noticed that in your own life. I sure have: a coworker who couldn’t tolerate someone eating a sandwich 10 feet away, and a roommate who had no problems with five decidedly non gluten-intolerant people.
The problem is, though, that there just isn’t enough research out there about what is and isn’t okay for people with gluten sensitivities to eat. So, understandably, doctors tell patients to avoid gluten all together.
3. Myth: Everyone Can Benefit from a Gluten-Free Diet.
Reality: There are many people that have never been diagnosed with Celiac Disease yet still have a very difficult time eating gluten. That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone should eliminate gluten from their diet.
Though it’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need while being gluten free, it is a very difficult endeavor and, if you don’t have a medical reason to, unnecesarily restricting. What’s more, there isn’t really a solid body of evidence to support the idea that people without gluten sensitivities will see benefits from eliminating gluten.
When people with sensitivities or celiac disease eliminate gluten, they often feel more energy, they sleep better and just feel all around more healthy. But that doesn’t mean that people without gluten sensitivities will get the same benefit — all it means is that people with gluten sensitivities are feeling better.
Another problem? Eating gluten free is significantly more expensive than not. If you don’t want to strain your grocery budget, it might not be the best diet for you.
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4. Myth: If You Eliminate Gluten, You’ll Lose Vital Nutrients You Can’t Find Anywhere Else.
Reality: Gluten wishes it were that special. There are absolutely no nutritional elements unique to foods with gluten in them. You can find any of the benefits of whole (gluten) grains in fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, and, of course, other grains that don’t have gluten. However, people opting to go gluten free, for whatever reason, really need to pay extra attention to their diets, because eliminating an entire major food group can be quite challenging.
5. Myth: Gluten-Free Foods Are Always Healthy.
Reality: Just because that cupcake or mac and cheese is gluten free doesn’t mean it’s a healthy alternative to the real thing. Junk food is junk food, and some gluten-free foods are actually more calorie dense than the alternative.
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6. Myth:The Growing Popularity of Gluten-Free Foods is Great for People with Celiac Disease.
Reality: To be fair, this one is a yes and no. For many people with celiac disease, the growing awareness of their dietary restrictions is great — more people understand their plight, there are more products available, etc. However (and this is no small problem), people with celiac disease have far more sensitivity to gluten than most people realize, and what s a trend or a diet for some people is a serious medical condition for others. Gluten-free products are popping up at restaurants and cafes across the country, but if these products aren’t handled with the right care, and all too often they aren’t, they can be really dangerous for people with celiac disease.