Let me start by saying that it is estimated that 1% of Americans truly do have celiac disease…a condition caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten (a protein found in whole grains) that can damage the lining of the small intestines and in turn can prevent important nutrients from being absorbed. So for people with celiac disease, a gluten free diet is essential. BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT….paradoxically most people who reach for gluten free products DON’T have celiac disease (the other 99 % of Americans) and yet have come up with the ridiculous notion that a gluten free diet is for some reason healthier for the general public. The truth is that a gluten free diet will likely lack many vitamins, minerals and fiber found in the grains they are eliminating. Its not that gluten itself has any special nutritional value but the foods that contains gluten do. Whole grain breads and cereals are rich in B vitamins and are our main source of insoluble fiber in our diet. Insoluble fiber serves to move things through our digestive tract thereby helping to keep our digestive systems healthy BUT also expands in our stomachs 8 fold to give us that premature feeling of fullness. When our brain is constantly sent this message of fullness we consume fewer calories. In fact, if you consume the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber/day, it is estimated that you will consume 25% fewer calories than the average American who only consumes 12 grams of fiber/day. The 2010 Dietary guidelines for Americans recommends that half of all of our calories come from good carbohydrates…whole grains, fruits and vegetables. And study upon study upon study have shown that whole grain foods help lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
These past couple of years, I have been bombarded with questions about gluten much of which has been celebrity and media driven. I have seen so many clients cut gluten containing products out of their diets thinking that it will make them healthier and/or lose weight but the truth for 99 % of the American population is that a gluten free diet is actually a LESS healthy alternative and because of the decrease in fiber and resulting loss of feeling of fullness will likely result in your GAINING WEIGHT!!!
So read your labels, 3 grams of fiber or more per serving is what you are looking for to constitute a high fiber food. Don’t’ be misled by the front of the box saying “whole grain” but turn the box sideways and go by the nutrition label. Grab a loaf of Great Harvest bread…enjoy your whole wheat pastas…pour yourself a bowl of cereal…and spread the truth about this gluten free craze.