Should I go gluten free?

Is it just a trendy food fad, or is there more to it?

So of all the confusing messages around food and health, whether you should go gluten free must be up there near the top.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats, if you are have coeliac disease then the, the body’s immune system reacts to gluten by damaging the lining of the small intestine, which will affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. It’s a serious condition which needs to be diagnosed by a doctor. If you suffer from a gluten intolerance however then you may suffer from some unpleasant symptoms but it’s not serious.

Now obviously if you are a coeliac it’s not a lifestyle choice but a health necessity to become gluten free, but what about the rest of us? I personally love bread, but I have in the last six months made a concerted effort to cut down the amount of bread I eat, avoiding it at breakfast apart from occasionally at weekends for a treat. This hasn’t been any hardship as there are so many other good alternatives to eat and it’s encouraged me to make a fresh juice daily which is a great way to start the day.

I’ve never had any symptoms that suggested I shouldn’t be eating bread, no bloating or pains and I’m not watching me weight but I was intrigued to see if it made me feel any different as I’d heard so many reports of people feeling healthier and more energetic. To be honest cutting down a bit didn’t make any difference other than perhaps feeling a bit less heavy after a toast overload after a weekend breakfast but then it was only two weeks. But then I was asked if I wanted to do a food intolerance test, intrigued by what it might uncover whilst feeling quietly confident I wouldn’t have to change much if anything, I said yes.

So I was very surprised when the test results came back as being positive to being intolerant to wheat (or more precisely gluten), and somewhat dismayed. So a couple of weeks ago I started on my gluten (not to mention the rest of it) free diet, but more on that another time.

So what are the advantages of going gluten free? Well gluten is found in all things pastry, from pies, to pasties, cakes, biscuits and if you look at the ingredients list of many of your favourite foods, you’ll find it’s in many others from soy sauce, to gravy. These foods are usually high in sugar or salt, processed and nutritionally not beneficial, so cutting them out is going to be a positive step to better health generally.

Don’t fall into the trap of buying gluten free processed alternatives such as gluten free biscuits, crackers or cereals, they are usually full of other additives and added sugar and can be very expensive and won’t help you lose weight if that is your aim. Gluten free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Read the label carefully!

Cook from scratch, choose whole foods which are cheaper & naturally nutritious and flavourful. Sweet potatoes, squash, quinoa, beans, rice, lentils, buckwheat, amaranth and millet are all good foods for a base for any meal. Replace pasta with rice or buckwheat versions or make courgetti (spiralized courgettes) and help to increase your daily vegetable quota. Replace sugary biscuit snacks with fresh berries, nuts, hummus and carrot sticks. Eating more fresh, seasonal, whole foods will improve your diet for the better and naturally give you more energy.

Many people choose to exclude gluten as it is found in many carbohydrates and they want to lose weight, but unless you are celiac or have a gluten intolerance then you don’t need to avoid gluten from your diet. It may be worth just taking the time to think about what you do eat though and increase your fresh whole foods intake and avoid processed foods - you will be sure to notice the difference. #nutrition #wellbeing #food

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