Health news

Should we stop eating gluten?

We're hearing more and more about gluten. We all know someone who in recent years has decided to cut wheat and other gluten sources from their diet. Week after week, supermarket shelves are filling up with gluten-free products. Is it a trend? How do we explain the popularity of "gluten-free products?" LE must magazine will shed some light on this question for you.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein present in wheat and other grains (rye, oats, barley, triticale, kamut, spelt) that gives grains their elasticity and volume.

Gluten intolerance: a new illness?

This medical condition was observed as far back as the second century A.D. However, there has been a marked increase in diagnoses of late, due mainly to tests developed for detecting gluten sensitivity.

Is it a trend?

Increasing numbers of people, often inspired by the diets of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Lady Gaga, are deciding to cut wheat from their diets. Some have read a book on the subject, others want to follow the latest diet, and there are those who simply feel better physically when they stop eating gluten.

Who should follow a gluten-free diet?

Only people diagnosed with coeliac disease should follow a strict, gluten-free diet (no trace or cross contamination) because it's the only way to treat and control this condition.

Because it is a severe and restrictive diet that can lead to malnutrition, a gluten-free diet should never be followed without supervision. According to the College of Physicians and the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec, it can be dangerous for your health.

According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, a gluten-free diet is low in carbohydrates, iron, zinc, and vitamins (folate and niacin).

Good for weight loss?

There is no scientific proof linking a gluten-free diet to weight loss. On the contrary, gluten-free products can be made of ingredients with a high glycemic index which can lead to weight gain. Starches used in these products are not enriched and are often low in fibre which means you don’t feel full as quickly from eating them. In addition, certain gluten-free products contain significant amounts of sugar and fat, giving them a texture that’s quite tempting to eat.

Interesting options

There are lots of natural gluten-free foods that can be eaten safely every day as part of a gluten-free diet. Here is a partial list:

  • Fresh fruit, pure juice, dried fruit
  • Fresh vegetables, potatoes, tubers
  • Fresh herbs
  • Milk
  • Legumes (beans, chick peas, dried peas, lentils) and legume flours
  • Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts) and seeds (chia, flax, sesame, poppy)
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh meat (fish, poultry, game)
  • Soy (plain tofu)
  • Gluten-free whole spices (peppercorns, pure salt)
  • Yogurt
  • Popcorn
  • Foods prepared with rice flour, corn flour, potato flour, soy flour, tapioca
  • Broth, stock, and soup made with fresh ingredients
  • Pure vanilla or almond extract, pure vanilla bean
  • Oil (canola, olive, corn), pure vinegars
  • Pure maple syrup, granulated sugar
  • Gluten-free cereals: amaranth, corn, cassava, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, sorghum, tapioca, teff, arrowroot, flakes and flours from these cereals, rice, and wild rice.

Where to find them

Any product containing gluten must have “Contains wheat” (or rye, oats, barley, triticale) printed on the list of ingredients.

Certain certification logos for gluten-free products exist and are found on product packaging, however, they are not required and companies must pay to obtain them.

"Gluten free" labelling is regulated. It indicates that the food contains less than 20 ppm of gluten, an amount that most coeliac sufferers can tolerate. Look for this label when choosing gluten-free foods.

To learn more about gluten-free foods, pick up the next issue of LE must magazine (in French only), available in June, July, and August, 2014.

By Marjolaine Jetté, Editor of LE must magazine and trainer at Rachelle-Béry.