To Gluten or Not to Gluten? 5 Myths Busted

Whether you're Celiac, sensitive or simply want to consume less gluten in your diet, get to know a little more about this naturally-occurring protein compound.

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"Gluten" refers to a group of hundreds of naturally occurring proteins found in wheat, barley and rye that have a characteristic elasticity to them. It's what makes bread fluffy and pasta sturdy rather than crumbly. Sounds pretty great, huh? Unfortunately, gluten is the culprit for health problems for those with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestines. It's also something to avoid for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a wheat allergy, or gluten sensitivities, or else risk gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, headache, depression and sometimes rashes. Choosing a gluten-free lifestyle has become trendy over the last few years - regardless of medical diagnosis or advice - and the lines between fact and false information have been blurred through various outlets of sensationalist media. Here following are five myths debunked once and for all!

MYTH #1 Going gluten-free is a healthy choice for everyone.

Unless you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or a gluten sensitivity, eliminating gluten from your diet won't necessarily make you "healthier"... nor will it help you lose weight, have more energy, or improve your skin. It's possible (and quite likely!) that someone who eliminates certain gluten-containing foods that frequent their diet, such as cake, cookies, crackers, breads, and refined white flour, and replaces them with more nutrient-dense, fiber-rich whole foods like legumes, fruits, vegetables and (non-gluten containing) whole grains will see positive health effects. However, it's worth noting that replacing those same foods with their gluten-free analog probably won't make much of a difference. Furthermore, altering your diet without the assistance of your physician or dietitian can have deleterious effects on your health, so it's crucial to seek their advice before making any dietary alterations.

MYTH #2 Gluten sensitivity doesn't exist.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is indeed recognized as a real medical condition... although it's very different from Celiac Disease or a wheat allergy - instead, it's diagnosed by elimination rather than biological markers (as scientists and doctors haven't found any concrete culprits). The condition was recognized fairly recently, and more studies must be done as researchers still haven't figured out what's triggering the wide range of symptoms, which include abdominal pain and digestive issues, fatigue, headaches, anxiety and impaired memory and cognition, and even neurological conditions such as ataxia. Just like someone with Celiac Disease, someone with NCGS must avoid gluten entirely.

Rocket Linguine with Sweet Peppers, Tomatoes & Herbed Garlic Bread

MYTH #3 The gluten-free diet is extremely limited.

You don't have to say goodbye to bread, pasta, pizza or grain bowls if you go gluten-free! While rye, barley and wheat in all their forms are off limits, you're still welcome to enjoy a slew of other grains, like rice, millet, corn, teff, quinoa, oats, sorghum, and buckwheat (that last one's tricky, right?!). Modern grocery stores stock up on gluten-free products, like flaxseed crackers, almond flour, brown rice pasta and cauliflower pizza crusts, as well as potatoes, nuts, seeds, beans, and plenty of fresh produce so you'll never go hungry or run out of ingredients to play with. These days, most packaged foods will be clearly labelled as "gluten-free," but it pays off to make a habit of double-checking the ingredients list... just in case!

MYTH #4 Avoiding gluten is just a trend.

According to an NHANES study, the rate of Americans opting for a gluten-free diet more than tripled between 2009 and 2014, despite the fact that Celiac Disease rates remained stable throughout that time period. Trendy? Oh yes; it's created a buzzing market space for gluten-free food products that has grown almost exponentially over the last few years, and doesn't show signs of slowing down. That being said, those that have been diagnosed with Celiac Diseases (and NCGS) are in it for the long haul, asking restaurant servers to flag for contamination, double-checking ingredient labels, and scoping out that Gluten-Free seal on grocery store shelves for their entire lives.

MYTH #5 You can self-diagnose your gluten intolerance.

Because gluten intolerance can present itself through a wide variety of symptoms, it's tempting for many to attribute their stomachaches, migraines, fatigue and skin conditions to something that's trending in online health blogs, magazines and grocery store shelves everywhere - gluten. Before making a drastic change to your diet, you should always seek medical testing and advice from your primary care physician. It's very important not to make any dietary changes before receiving an examination, as you risk skewing your results. Having a nutrition professional, like a registered dietitian, to educate and guide you through any alterations you may need to make is essential to your success and to good health in general, regardless of whether you're diagnosed with Celiac Disease or simply want to eat in a way that's most beneficial to your livelihood and fits your lifestyle.

Veggie Lo Mein with Bok Choy Tofu and Rice Noodles

Did you know that we offer several No-Gluten dishes every week? Delicious recipes delivered with all the (gluten-free!) ingredients you need to make a wonderful meal. One special note: while these recipes do not incorporate gluten-containing ingredients, the included ingredients are packed in a facility that store items containing gluten. If you have a Celiac intolerance or gluten sensitivity, we recommend you use your best judgment in selecting your dishes! Here are a few of our favorites:

Chicken with Tri-Color Quinoa & Mirepoix

Sweet Potato & Chickpea Curry with Brown Basmati Rice

Hanger Steak & Fig Balsamic Pan Sauce with Roasted Beet & Watercress Salad

Veggie Lo Mein with Bok Choy, Tofu & Rice Noodles

Barbecue-Glazed Chicken, Roasted Carrots & Green Salad with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

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