We’ve been going on and on about how great gluten-free living is, not just for those with gluten intolerance, but for those of us who aren’t afflicted with any kind of gluten sensitivity as well. There’s been a steady increase in gluten-free products on the market in recent years, and these products serve a clear need – it is estimated that 1 in 133 Americans today is gluten intolerant, and about 6% have reported some form of gluten sensitivity. The gluten-free market in Canada reached more than half a billion (USD) dollars last year, and reports have surfaced that intolerance is on the rise in Asia – in particular, Singapore, where statistics on the subject are proving easier to track down.
While much of the literature available talks about the benefits of going gluten-free, we point out 5 pitfalls to avoid when embarking on your gluten-free lifestyle.
Not all gluten-free products are equal
The key source of the offending gluten is wheat and while it’s easy to ensure a product doesn’t contain it, finding a suitable replacement is another matter. Many gluten-free processed products often substitute wheat with ingredients that do more bad than good in the long run. As a result, a seemingly healthy diet may end up doing more harm than good. Look out for additives in your gluten-free foods that are added to improve their taste and colour as they are likely to increase your blood sugar levels leading to hyper-tension, diabetes, and heart disease.
Gluten-free doesn’t promote weight loss
Sorry folks, a balanced diet and a lifestyle that includes exercise promotes weight loss. Just going gluten-free isn’t a shortcut or magic pill. Many gluten-free foods contain cornstarch, potato starch, rice flour, and increased portions of various oils. These ingredients make gluten-free actually more fattening than the regular foods that they’re meant to replace. Therefore, if you can’t avoid these ingredients in your gluten-free meal, be sure to moderate your intake and get moving more.
Balance is the key
Many gluten-free foods are made from refined grains and starches that don’t contain important nutrients, like iron, B vitamins, and fibre. These are nutrients that are essential to a healthy digestive system, regardless of whether that system can or cannot handle gluten. If you have to go gluten-free, make sure you supplement your diet with plenty of the right foods that will give your body the nutrients it needs.
Boost your intake of B vitamins by eating fish, lean beef and low fat dairy. Get iron from beans and greens, such as spinach, and don’t forget to get your fibre from legumes, fruits and vegetables.
Watch out for buzzwords
Don’t go for the latest new gluten-free product out in the market that costs a bomb. There are many alternatives that are both natural and affordable. Many times we go for the convenient option. However, there are many resources, just like this website, that teach you how gluten-free while keeping your money in your pocket. Go for grains such as corn (maize, polenta), soya, quinoa, millet, arrowroot, buckwheat, and amaranth; all of which can be found in their raw forms and do not take a lot to be embedded as a crucial ingredient in your diet.
Consult your doctor
While you’ll be able to draw benefits from the absence of gluten in your life if you balance that out with adequate nutrition, doctors generally only recommend you go gluten-free if you’ve celiac disease. If you can, go for a full analysis of your body’s allergies and sensitivities. Often an apparent sensitivity to gluten may have a completely different cause. So while gluten-free may marginally help you lessen your symptoms, you’ll be missing a larger problem if there is one.