What is it about that gluten-free cupcake that seems so appealing? There has been a lot of confusion about the gluten-free diet. If you have heard about this diet but do not fully understand what it is, you’re probably not alone. Let’s look at the realities of gluten to help you make an informed decision whether you should consume it or not.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and additional cross-breeds. Gluten acts as a binding agent, holding food together providing shape and texture. It also creates the elasticity which gives dough its strength. Although gluten itself does not offer special nutritional benefits, it is found in grain products rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Understanding Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity
A gluten-free diet is essential for Celiac Disease. When gluten is consumed, this digestive disease creates an immune response forming antibodies which attack the lining of the small intestine. This results in damage to the intestines and blocks the absorption of nutrients in the food. Gluten sensitivity may also lead to similar symptoms of Celiac Disease such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, and bloating but will not lead to damage of the intestine. If you have Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, you should avoid
Gluten-free products are becoming very common. Companies have created many food items from pasta to bread which accommodate this diet. Although this is great news for those with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten-free products do not indicate that the food is lower in calories or more nutritious. They are simply just without gluten. Therefore, if you are persuaded to eat a gluten-free cupcake merely because it is labeled as gluten-free, think again. Those gluten-free cupcakes will likely contain all of the fats and sugars as gluten-containing cupcakes.
Research suggests that 1 in 133 individuals in the United States (over 2 million people) may have Celiac Disease (Fasano et al. 2003), so why are gluten-free diets so common? Why have consumers vindicated the gluten-free diet as a source of weight loss, digestive health and nutritional significance? Just because your friend’s sister’s neighbor’s yoga instructor avoids gluten does not mean you should too!
Choosing Healthy Foods
Instead of omitting gluten from your diet, emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, nuts, and beans. Take advantage of the opportunities to achieve a balanced diet by escaping the limitations of becoming gluten-free. Read the list of ingredients on your food labels to achieve a better understanding of what you are eating. Remember, the lists of ingredients are in descending order with the largest quantity ingredient listed first. You should also refer to the nutrition facts label. This information is based on one serving size which allows you to assess the nutritional value of your food.
To understand more about “The Basics of the Nutrition Facts Panel” visit http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=10935
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Website. Available at www.eatright.org/publig/content.aspx?id=10935.Accessed September 19, 2014
Celiac Disease Foundation. Available at http://celiac.org. Accessed September 16, 2014
FDA/CEDR resources page. Food and Drug Administration Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm. Accessed September 15, 2014
FDA/CEDR resources page. Food and Drug Administration Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm367654.htm. Accessed September 15
Harvard/School of Public Health. Available at:
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/health-gains-from-whole-grains.Accessed September 16, 2014
Lance N, Wilson W, How the cookie crumbles. A case of gluten-free cookies and random utility. American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 2012;25:576-582
Samasca G, Sur G, Lupan I, Deleanu D. Gluten-free diet and quality of life in celiac disease.; gastroenterology & hepatology From Bed to Bench [serial online]. Summer2014 2014;7:139-143.Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 18, 2014