Is “Gluten-Free” An Authentic Diet Or A Fad?
The term “gluten-free” has swept the nation as the new healthy fix. “Gluten-free” has been tossed around the media, become a new staple in many celebrity diets, and has somehow worked its way into the jumble of weight loss remedy fads. This is the silliest trend I have seen in a while.
I became gluten free about two years ago. After going to various doctors and doing some research, I decided it would alleviate my symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and eczema. I made this decision based purely on my health, and not because of the trending phenomenon exploding around me. Along the road of discovery, I was (and still am) faced with endless “Why are you going gluten-free?” This is the most annoying question, yet not the only question concerning this diet.
What Is Gluten?
It’s pretty interesting that many people seem to want to consider hopping onto this gluten-free bandwagon without actually knowing what gluten is. Wouldn’t it make more sense to actually understand what something is before you decide to cut it out of your life? Of course it would.
Let me start by introducing you to this bad boy. Gluten, as defined by the FDA, is a protein that naturally occurs in many grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, and gives the product the elastic glue-like effects it needs. Obviously, anything made with flour, unless otherwise specified, contains these ingredients and therefore contains gluten. Things like pizza crust, sandwich bread, soy sauce (yep, almost any Asian dish), cake, and even wasabi peas are strictly prohibited to us gluten-free gurus.
Why Do This?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that prevents someone from being able to digest gluten as it irritates the lining of their small intestine. This is not the only reason gluten can be an unpleasant substance to ingest. It’s similar to the difference between being lactose-intolerant and sensitive to dairy. Some people, like myself, have no problem digesting gluten, but it isn’t something that “agrees” with our bodies. From sensitive stomachs to various skin problems, gluten has been found to trigger unpleasant symptoms that accompany these conditions.
Quite recently, going gluten-free has been labeled as a healthier way to eat and has become a major topic of discussion, creating this widespread “anti-gluten” state of mind. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus have even credited going gluten-free for their weight loss success, and popular TV show hosts like Dr. Oz have tackled this hot topic.
Should I Eliminate It Also?
Thus, we’re back to the question of whether or not going gluten-free is the right way to go. Honestly, it’s quite obvious why. After watching the words “gluten-free” appear all over your magazine subscriptions, TV programming, and food stores, eliminating gluten is going to start to seem like the right step in your journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
This diet choice is not for everyone and is not the next step towards a healthy diet. Yes, it eliminates many unhealthy food choices from your diet such as pizza and cookies, but there are plenty of other food choices that are just as unhealthy that it does not eliminate. Foods like peanut butter milkshakes, french fries, and ranch dressing are all gluten free but are just as bad for you. You can even get gluten-free pizza and still risk eating the entire carbohydrate-filled pan.
I think that the gluten-free fad has become so popular because it’s new, and it’s different. In a society with a growing rate of obesity and a sea of overly processed foods, it’s obvious why people are going to turn towards something that seems “healthier” just because it cuts some common unhealthy food choices out. Think about it. Just because someone can’t drink milk doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. If your friend doesn’t eat meat, it’s ridiculous to think that you should start cutting it out as well. I sure as hell wouldn’t. It’s the same idea.
For all of you that link being gluten-free to a healthier lifestyle, I hope you have a better understanding of what being gluten-free actually means, and can see that it doesn’t actually mean it’s the healthier way to live. Like deciding to become vegetarian, vegan, or dairy-free, it’s simply an elimination of an ingredient. There is no magical diet that leads to weight loss or a healthier lifestyle. It’s simply eating a healthy diet, and choosing to make healthier decisions. You can easily eat healthy with gluten in your diet, just as easily as you can eat unhealthily without gluten in your diet.