Gluten-Free, Fat-Free

By Heba Haidar, BSc Nutrition, MHSc

The diet industry is a multimillion dollar business and to maintain its mark, a new diet is always in the making. These gimmick diets are advertised as miracle workers, giving simple solutions to complex weight problems developed over months and years. This type of advertising propels consumers to form unrealistic expectations in the area of weight loss, constantly seeking instant satisfaction and quick fixes. Despite the extremely high failure rates associated with temporary dieting, the diet industry continues to promote and promise results from following these diets and consumers will continue to take the bait in hopes of finding the magic bullet that will transform their lives.

The latest diet gracing magazine covers across the continent is the now infamous gluten free diet. Originally used to treat certain medical conditions, gluten-free diets are now being marketed as a quick weight-loss solution. Most consumers are not aware of what gluten is, when to eliminate it from the diet, and why eliminating it may aid in weight loss. If you fall into this category, read on and you may thank us later!

Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, barley and rye grains. Eating gluten-free involves avoiding the consumption of foods that contain or have come in contact with gluten-containing grains. Although the only gluten containing grains are wheat, barley and rye, many people who eat gluten-free also avoid eating oats, because oats are usually found to be contaminated with wheat and barley unless specially grown, harvested and processed. Any foods produced with or containing these grains will contain gluten including but not limited to bagels, breads, cakes, cookies, crackers, pasta, pizza and much more.

There are two types of individuals that must avoid eating gluten for medical reasons, and they are individuals with celiac disease and those with non-celiac gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is a genetic lifelong disorder that causes inflammation in the intestine when gluten is consumed, and as such, eating gluten causes damage to the lining of the intestine making it very difficult to absorb nutrients leading to variety of complications including nutrient deficiencies. Non-celiac gluten intolerance is not yet very well understood, however, people with this condition share some common symptoms with those who have celiac disease and also cannot tolerate gluten in their diet.

Like many diets, a gluten-free diet is a masked method of getting individuals to reduce their overall caloric intake as well as eat more fresh whole foods in their diet. Using a gluten-free diet makes weight loss inevitable because many foods that contain gluten tend to be processed such as cakes, cookies, breads, processed meats, and cheeses. When such foods are eliminated from the diet, the individual is not only eliminating gluten, but also eliminating processed high fat foods that can be full of empty calories, leaving more room for nutritious foods that are lower in fat and higher in fiber and nutrients. Ultimately, this dieting pattern leads to a much healthier, albeit expensive, diet and contributes to a successful weight loss regime.

The gluten-free diet is a current food trend that will pass us by just like many other diets that have preceded it. Once the controversy grows surrounding this diet, another will find its way into the spotlight and into millions of lives, only to mask the complex reality of weight loss all over again.


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