Look in the menu of many establishments today and chances are you’ll see a little symbol that indicates if an item is gluten-free. You may even have ordered it because it sounds healthy, but does it really provide us with any health benefits?
Gluten is found in many different types of grain-based food, like bread for instance. People who are sensitive or are allergic to such foods (like those suffering from celiac disease) will have to opt for gluten-free alternatives. But when it comes to the rest of us, it seems like we may just be wasting our stomach space.
In a question posed in The New York Times, they talk about how gluten-free diets are not necessarily better or healthier for people who have no history of gluten allergies. In fact, quite the opposite.
“There’s no reason for someone who feels well to start a gluten-free diet to promote wellness,” said Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, director of clinical research at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. “It is not an intrinsically wellness-promoting diet.”
“Gluten-free substitute foods tend to have more fat, more sugar and more salt than gluten-containing counterparts, in general,” he added, which implies unhealthier diets overall.
In fact, there’s a whole bunch of reasons why you should be on a diet filled with grains. Research published in the BMJ found that there was a correlation between the consumption of whole grains and a lower chance of heart disease.
Even though it may sound healthier, gluten-free foods aren’t actually much better for us at all. “Avoiding whole grains because you’ve heard gluten is bad is like avoiding whole fruits because you’ve heard fructose is bad,” said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. “Avoiding it systematically produces net harm both to diet and to health,” he adds, suggesting that the avoidance of foods that contain gluten results in a diet with a greater amount of processed food.
So don’t just hop on the bandwagon just because something sounds healthy. Chances are, you may be doing more harm than good to yourself if you don’t know how it really affects you.
By Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health Content Producer