I hear the question every day – “Is gluten free right for me? Should I be gluten free?” Spoiler alert – there is no easy answer. There are so many reasons why gluten free diets might benefit everyone, but there is also a right way and a wrong way to do it, and from what I’ve seen lots of people are doing it the wrong way. Gluten free diets have helped lots of people, but the real question is it healthy for YOU? Let’s explore this idea:
Why Should I Be Gluten Free?
Anyone who knows me knows that I am serious about food sensitivities. Many people are sensitive to foods that are common in the modern diet – not allergic, just sensitive. This means that by eating that food you are creating a low-level inflammation in your body that is always there because the food is always there. While you’re in good health and things are going well that may not show up as anything, but if you get sick or if your body has a weak spot somewhere (like allergies or eczema or behavioral disorders or arthritis) then that low-level of inflammation is going to make your thing, whatever that happens to be, worse.
As it happens, gluten is one of the most common food sensitivities, along with dairy, corn and soy. Does this mean everyone should eliminate it? No – not at all. It does mean that if you happen to be sensitive to gluten then eliminating it is going to make a world of difference to your health, both now and long-term. If you’re sensitive to it, then the answer to the question “is gluten free right for me” is a resounding YES. If you’re not sure how to figure out what your food sensitivities are, the please check out the full post on it here.
Outside of the food sensitivity angle, eliminating gluten from your diet often means that you’re cutting out a lot of the starchy, carb-rich roods that we seem to adore so much (as long as you’re doing it right). This helps you prevent diabetes and heart disease and also keep that waist-line trim – all in all that’s not too shabby for a simple diet change.
What Are the Risks of Being Gluten-Free?
Risk is maybe too strong a word, but there can be pitfalls. The most common of which is that people switch to gluten-free, but still eat just as many cookies and crackers and breads and pastas as they did before. This is still a good idea if you’re gluten-sensitive (or obviously if you have Celiac disease) but doesn’t give you any of the benefits of a lower carb diet. There seems to be a common misconception, that looks like this:
Gluten-Free = Healthy
Sadly, that is not the case. Gluten-free just equals gluten-free. The cookie is still a cookie, with all the carbs and calories and sugars that go with it. Here’s the thing though, that still doesn’t mean:
Gluten-Free ≠ Healthy
Gluten-free can be an awesome way to eat, it’s just a matter of doing it right. So let’s talk about that.
The Right Way to Eat Gluten-Free
The basic rule to eating well gluten-free is eating well. That means the normal rules still apply – just because it’s gluten-free doesn’t mean you get a free pass to the cookies, cakes and baked yummies. So here are some good guidelines:
- Make the bulk of your meal fresh veggies and fruits – I try to go for 2/3 of meals, but breakfast sometimes isn’t as easy to proportion that way.
- Include a good protein-source like grass-fed grass-finished beef, natural poultry, organic eggs, organic dairy or wild-caught fish (in moderation because populations are dwindling). If you’re vegetarian than focus on complete proteins like beans and rice, nuts, or seeds.
- Include plenty of good fats – avocados, olives, olive oil, grass-fed butter, nut and seed oils
- The smallest portion of the meal should be your sugars and starches – even if those starches are gluten-free starches.
The biggest problem is that lots of people are going “gluten-free” which means they still eat a Standard American Diet (SAD for a reason) except that the vast quantities of bread, pasta, cookies, crackers and sweets all have GF on the label. I’d love to say the gluten-fairy took away all the sugars and carbs and calories when she took away the gluten, but sadly that isn’t the case. Just remember to think about the big picture when you’re going gluten-free.
Is gluten free healthy? The Answer is yes, as long as you do it the right way. Is gluten free right for me? Well… that depends on you.