The Pros and Cons of a Gluten-Free Diet

By Team Cellucor

It is estimated that sales of gluten-free food will amount to $23.9 billion by 2020[1].

Despite the fact that only a small percentage of the world’s population has Celiac Disease, the gluten-free industry is enormous. With this in mind, is eliminating gluten from your diet sensible, or a sensationalist step too far?

We investigated the pros and cons of a gluten-free diet...

What Is The Gluten-Free Diet?

Gluten is a protein derived from wheat and similar grains such as rye and barley. These are key ingredients in foods such as pasta, bread, and cereal.

For instance, when you bake a loaf of bread, it is gluten that makes the bread ‘rise’ in the oven. Gluten is also added to many other dishes, particularly highly-processed ready to eat meals.

Sufferers of Celiac’s disease cannot tolerate gluten as it prompts an allergic reaction and symptoms such as bloating, water retention and abdominal cramping. The Gluten-Free Diet seeks to eliminate all traces of this protein from a nutrition plan and argues that everyone should follow suit.

Should you? We put gluten’s mettle to the test…

The Gluten-Free Diet: The Pros

Not a positive protein

The importance of protein in general to your recovery and muscle growth is well-established. However, gluten itself doesn’t actually provide your body with much in the way of nutrition. Unlike many other proteins, gluten is not completely broken down by your body and so strands remain in your small intestine post-digestion.

Followers of a gluten-free diet point to this lack of nutrition, and the existence of Celiac’s disease, as the primary reasons for fully removing gluten from the diet.

Quality quinoa

If you do your research, alternatives to gluten can be sought from relatively high-quality food sources. Grains and seeds such as quinoa and buckwheat are generally Celiac-approved and provide a whole host of health-protecting properties.

For instance, quinoa is the only non-animal protein source to contain all 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) that your body needs to build and grow muscle tissue. Buckwheat is packed with micronutrients, particularly B vitamins. These are your body’s energy-producing vitamins, fighting fatigue and aiding normal muscular function. 

Encourages awareness

Regardless of whether gluten itself causes health problems, an awareness of labeling and what goes into the food you eat should always be encouraged.

Researchers from Sydney’s University of Technology and Melbourne Business School performed a meta-analysis of 186 studies and found that displaying nutritional information on packaging prompted people to consume 27 fewer calories per meal.

The Gluten-Free Diet: The Cons

The calorie cause

In order to investigate the effects of gluten on body composition, the Federal University of Minas Gerais conducted an in-depth study. They found that while gluten was linked to weight gain, it did not seem to be a direct cause.

Does this mean that eating gluten will definitely make you fat? Not at all. The likelihood is that weight gain was caused by consuming a surplus of food and calories.

To this day, there is no compound within gluten which has been shown to cause weight gain in people without Celiac’s.

Cut out crap first

What is the one secret to success that underpins Paleo, Zone, and the Atkins Diet? Answer: there is none.

When these diets do work, they do so due to a calorie deficit having been created. Success going gluten-free depends more on eliminating excess calories than gluten contained within the foods you eat. It is likely that most people considering a gluten-free diet do so when already overweight.

Cutting down on high-cal food, in general, will help you get lean in this situation, irrespective of how much gluten you’re consuming. 

Don’t forget fiber

With the growth of the gluten-free industry, you can now purchase pizza, chocolate, and beer that doesn’t contain a trace of the wheat protein. Despite they may retain a high-calorie count and an abundance of saturated fat and sugar.

On the flip-side, while wholegrain pasta and bread still contain gluten, both are very beneficial for your health for a number of reasons. Their high fiber content provides your body with digestive help, ensuring your uptake of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients is enhanced.

The Gluten-Free Diet – Yay or Nay?

There is no overwhelming evidence that gluten causes weight gain. Unless you’re a Celiac’s sufferer, you don’t necessarily need to adopt this diet. Gluten-free should not be seen as a substitute for healthiness, as gluten-free junk food is still widely available. The impetus should be placed on education.

If you do your research, there are plenty of nutritious food options available both containing gluten (wholegrain pasta) and not (basmati rice).



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