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Wednesday, September 28, 2011 2

Q: What are the pros and cons of a gluten-free diet?

By: Question from: The Editors, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Gluten Free
Photo: JMacPherson/Flickr

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A:

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, but it’s also found in foods like ice cream and ketchup. Gluten-free diets are typically followed by people suffering from a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, a condition that causes a negative reaction to gluten and results in damage to the intestines. This damage makes it difficult for the body to absorb necessary nutrients and leads to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

In recent years, gluten-free diets have become part of the weight loss fad. However, a gluten-free diet isn’t necessarily healthier and often leads to weight gain. Many gluten-free products are high in processed carbs and sugar. A person not dealing with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease would be better off shopping for a variety of high-fiber carbs, lean proteins, colorful fruits and veggies, and healthy fats. One hundred percent whole-wheat barley, wheat, and rye are also packed with fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and improve digestive health.

Here’s a list of pros and cons to a gluten-free diet.

Pros of Eliminating Gluten

  • If you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, you may have inflammation or damage to the intestinal tract. Eating gluten free can help reverse this damage and inflammation.
  • Encourages label reading and more awareness of food
  • Leads to a healthier diet filled with less processed foods
  • Introduces higher quality grains, like quinoa, into your diet


Cons of Eliminating Gluten

  • Reduced carbohydrate intake due to lack of education on nutrients (not all carbs have gluten)
  • Lack of fiber from traditional sources can lead to digestive issues
  • Possible weight gain from eating gluten-free products, which often contain higher levels of fat and sugar
  • Possible weight gain as the intestinal track recovers and begins to absorb nutrients properly
  • Possible weight loss and consumption of a nutrient deficient diet from eliminating too many foods for fear of a negative reaction

Bottom line: If you think you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, see your doctor. Don’t go on a gluten-free diet without checking with your doctor first. Going gluten-free and then getting checked by your doctor can affect the results of the blood test used to diagnose celiac disease.

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