Part 2: All About Gluten

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How has the New Year been, so far? I know it has just been a week but did you make any New Year resolutions and have you managed to stick to them? I didn’t make any this time around. New Year is a great day to make new resolutions, with a fresh slate and all…for a better and healthier life no doubt. But, any day is good enough…as long as we keep at it!

Last Friday’s post was the part 1 on Gluten and let’s carry the discussion forward.

Today, going vegan and going gluten-free are one of the biggest health trends. Though I am neither at present, I DO see the point to some extent. I don’t prefer extreme diets and moderation is perfect for me when it comes to food. An ovo-lacto-vegetarian by choice, I don’t believe in food group-restrictive diets for me and my clients, unless there is a medical concern.

There is a lot of confusion on both the topics but for today, let’s stick with gluten. Some people ‘must’ avoid gluten to avoid certain health complications as we read last week. This could be due to gluten-sensitivity or celiac disease.

Many products today proudly claim on packaging that they are gluten-free. Many people world-over believe that going gluten-free would change their life, aid in weight loss and make them healthier automatically.

However, while trying to have a “healthier diet” especially if you are not gluten-intolerant, I would like to not fall into such marketing traps and consume processed “gluten-free” products just for the sake of it. Just because it’s gluten-free, it doesn’t automatically becomes healthier! These foods could be high in sugar, sodium and other refined flours too.

Why Blame Gluten?

Gluten is not one single compound but a family of proteins found in wheat, spelt, rye and barley etc. These glue-like proteins are what make our breads and cakes fluffy.

Gluten is quite resistant to digestive enzymes in our digestive tracts and this might lead to intestinal damage, malnutrition and digestive disorders. The undigested protein molecules also pass through the intestinal wall into our body. This can lead to triggering to immune-response in our bodies such as inflammation, rashes etc – as happens in the case of celiac disease. The question is, does this happen to everyone? It doesn’t.

Then?

Many experts feel that people who don’t have a gluten-sensitivity but still report feeling better with a gluten-free diet, do so due to many other reasons such as:

  • wheat and gluten both have gotten a bad name today because most of the processed food/fast food/bakery products that we eat today, is wheat-based (and such…) and it’s not the wheat that is bad. The processing and refining makes it bad e.g. the bread in itself is not a bad food…it’s the white-soft version we buy at shop – to be blamed as it is made of refined wheat flour, is full of preservatives, is bleached and all
  • all these processed and fast foods are high in carbs, sugar, unhealthy fats and empty calories as well, by default
  • avoiding gluten means avoiding all these foods and might result in better lifestyle and eating habits, resulting in less fatigue, mood swings and healthy weight loss etc

Unless you really are gluten-sensitive, avoiding processed foods, sugary cereals etc would make you feel just the same, won’t it?

So Gluten Or No Gluten?

It makes sense to avoid processed foods and foods made from refined flour. And to avoid junk food and foods high in sugar, trans fats, sodium and empty calories. To Avoid sugary drinks too.

And

Add a variety to your diet, don’t exclude any foods or foods-groups unless you have medical concerns because of them.

Add whole-grains, whole fresh fruits and vegetables too. Don’t exclude wholegrain wheat from your diet, moderate it. Just add millets, pulses and other whole grains to your diet such as oats, amaranth, jowar (sorghum), barley, ragi (finger millet), buckwheat (kuttu), Bengal gram etc…along with some wholegrain wheat.

Gluten Free Options

If you decide to adopt a ‘gluten-free’ diet or a ‘less-gluten’ diet, make sure to choose foods which are naturally free from gluten rather than buying processed gluten-free foods as they might be high in other refined grains and sugars while low on nutrition. The natural options are:

  • Rice, buckwheat (kuttu), amaranth (rajgira), millets, jowar (sorghum)
  • Oats, quinoa
  • Flax
  • Tapioca
  • Meat, fish and seafood
  • Eggs, oils and butter
  • Dairy products
  • Fruits, vegetables
  • Legumes and nuts

Personally, I prefer my wholegrain-multigrain rotis (wheat is an important part of the blend, too) over rice any day. They keep me fuller for long and are way more nutritious than the de-starched rice! Whole-wheat blended with millets etc that I use is quite healthy and provides necessary fibre, vitamin Bs, magnesium and iron etc. If I go gluten-free, I will have to make up for all these in some other way. Too complicated and unnecessary for me without any real need, as of today.

But then, I am not ‘wheat/gluten intolerant’! I am just ‘junk food-intolerant’! 🙂

{{“The gluten-free food industry has grown 136% from 2013 to 2015 with almost $12 billion in sales in 2015. Interestingly, studies show that people who do not have celiac disease are the biggest purchasers of gluten-free products. Consumer surveys show that the top three reasons people select gluten-free foods are for “no reason,” because they are a “healthier option,” and for “digestive health.” For those who are not gluten-intolerant, there is no data to show a specific benefit in following a gluten-free diet, particularly if processed gluten-free products become the mainstay of the diet. In fact, research following patients with celiac disease who change to a gluten-free diet shows an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome. This could be partly due to improved intestinal absorption, but speculation has also focused on the low nutritional quality of processed gluten-free foods that may contain refined sugars and saturated fats and have a higher glycemic index.”}} *Source and credit: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

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