I personally know that going gluten-free was the right choice for me. (For more information, see “Why”) I know how I feel even if I have a small amount of gluten, which is awful. So I give gluten a wide berth. However, I have been asked many times about the popularity of the gluten-free diet and if the entire population should go gluten-free.
Now, I am not a doctor, dietician or researcher, so my opinion may not matter to you. However, I have done quite a bit of research on the topic and I ask you to hear me out. There are very few, if any, scientific studies that support the idea that the general population should go gluten free. As professor Glenn Gaesser reports, “The only reason you would lose weight [on a gluten-free diet] is that you’re cutting calories. It probably won’t hurt you to go gluten-free. However, there are indications that gluten may contribute to blood pressure control and immune function, and may create a healthy composition of colon bacteria.”
After talking with your doctor, there are four (4) things that I think EVERYONE should do. (Unless restricted by some kind of diet or medical condition, talk to your doctor first before starting any new diet or exercise regimen.)
1. I think everyone should try to go gluten-free for a month, 4 weeks, and see how they feel.
Once the gluten is reintroduced into the body, your body will tell you if you tolerate it well or not. If you are able to eat gluten products, great! However, unless you are already following a high protien/high vegetable and fruit diet, with limited gluten:
2. Everyone who eats gluten should reduce the amount of gluten they are eating.
I am not advocating for the elimination of gluten but advocating for the reduction of the percentage of foods that you eat that contain gluten.
3. Everyone should attempt to eat less processed gluten products.
Now, unlike vegetables, fruits and meats, all gluten products are processed. What wheat, rye and barley look like when it is grown is not even remotely similar to the final product: bread, pasta, graham crackers, etc. Additionally, many “healthy” multigrain breads sold in grocery stores are simply white bread with grains and coloring added to it. These breads may seem healthy, but they’re actually loaded with sugar and contain minimal fiber, so you won’t feel as full and may eat more as a result.
If you plan to eat gluten-containing bread, look for bread with 100 percent whole wheat on the label and whole wheat flour listed as the first ingredient on the nutrition panel. This will provide you with a healthy amount of complex carbohydrates and fiber to help you feel fuller, longer.
4. Last, everyone should increase the amount of unprocessed foods in their diet including: fruits, vegetables and protein sources.
The goal is to eat foods that look as close to what they looked like when produced, as possible. What I mean is, when you eat an apple, that apple looks the same as it did when it was removed from the tree. When you make a baked potato, it looks the same as it did when it came from the ground (and it usually comes with dirt still on it, lucky you). Increasing your intake of unprocessed fruits, vegetables and protein will most likely help you feel more full, for longer. Also, by eating more unprocessed foods, you will likely decrease the amount of preservatives, sodium and sugar in your diet. Yipee!
If you go gluten-free for 4 weeks and find out that you have some kind of gluten sensitivity or do not not feel great when you eat products containing gluten, what should you do?
Well, if you have reintroduced gluten into your diet and don’t feel great, I would suggest talking with your doctor. After that, depending on your doctor’s recommendations, I would still follow most of the recommendations stated above: eliminate gluten (possibly forever) or reduce the amount of gluten in your diet, increase the amount of quality gluten if you are still eating it and increase the amount of unprocessed foods in your diet.
When I went gluten free, I did not substitute pasta for gluten-free pasta or bread for gluten-free bread. I made this choice for multiple reasons:
- The substitutions are usually just as calorically dense
- I did not want to add all of those preservatives into my body
- Substitutions are expensive.
- The substitutions do not usually taste as good as the real thing.
So, No. I do not think everyone should go gluten-free . . . but with many caveats.