Fashion for a gluten-free diet is still going on. Gluten-free products can be found in virtually any grocery store, and their quantity is still increasing. Used to reduce weight, improve well-being and overall health. What is it about? Does it help and can everyone use it?
Gluten-free diet – what is it about?
The gluten-free diet consists of the elimination of gluten, which is a mixture of vegetable proteins contained in cereal products such as wheat (including spelled), rye, barley, and oats. Oat remains an issue because the protein contained therein does not trigger an immune reaction typical of celiac disease. However, Polish oat is heavily contaminated with other cereals, therefore it is necessary to eliminate it from the diet.
Despite restrictions, a gluten-free diet should provide adequate amounts of energy and nutrients that are necessary for the proper functioning of the body. People suffering from celiac disease – apart from eliminating gluten from everyday nutrition – are subject to the same recommendations and nutritional standards as healthy people. Therefore, the gluten-free diet should follow the principles of the Pyramid of Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity developed by the Institute of Food and Nutrition.
The daily menu must, therefore, include products from each floor. Cereal products should be replaced with gluten-free cereals, such as rice, millet, buckwheat, and pseudo-cereals, such as teff, amaranth, quinoa. It is advisable to enrich the diet with Spanish sage or linseed, dried fruits, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and poppy seeds. These products provide B vitamins, iron, vitamin E and essential fatty acids. Also, the diet should contain products rich in wholesome protein – lean meats, fish, eggs and milk, and its products. Allergy to gluten is very often associated with lactose intolerance (milk sugar). In this situation, to provide the right amount of calcium, you should consume enriched vegetable milk or take this element in the form of a dietary supplement.
Gluten-free diet – for whom?
A gluten-free diet is only for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. In these people, gluten causes the disappearance of the intestinal villi. This leads to a reduction in the surface area of absorption of nutrients in the small intestine, and after a long time to its significant impairment. As a consequence, there are clinical symptoms on the part of the digestive tract and other organs. Typical gastrointestinal symptoms include chronic diarrhea, constipation and bloating, anorexia, abdominal pain, weight loss. The implementation of a gluten-free diet for these people is essential. It aims to reduce the inflammatory process and rebuild intestinal villi, which improves the absorption of nutrients.
Some authors believe that people are not adapted to eat grains. They argue that digestive enzymes contained in the human digestive tract can not completely break down gluten. As a result, peptides (incompletely decomposed protein molecules) reach the bloodstream, which is very similar to human tissues. The immune system is confused and can start attacking its cells, leading to the development of a variety of autoimmune diseases. However, healthy people who tolerate gluten products well should not exclude them from the diet.
Each elimination entails the risk of nutrient deficiencies. The non-consumption of cereal products, i.e. wheat, rye, barley, oats, may lead to a lack of diet, e.g. fat-soluble vitamins, B vitamins, folic acid, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and dietary fiber. Also, it can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and heart attack. Also, people on a gluten-free diet have a deterioration in the composition of the intestinal microflora and lipid profile.
Gluten-free diet – what to watch out for?
It may seem that a gluten-free diet is easy to use. In the end, almost every store has a shelf with gluten-free products. However, these are only appearances. Gluten-free products are most often highly processed and, consequently, poor in nutrients. Their composition is very long and contains chemical additives – artificial aromas, dyes, preservatives, emulsifiers, hardened fats, glucose-fructose syrup, modified starches, etc.
Products of non-gluten nature, e.g. millet, can also be dangerous and contain allergenic protein. It is related to the conditions of their production, which prevail in the food factory. Gluten is transferred in the form of dust. For example, if the production of millet groats takes place in the same hall as gluten crops, it may be infected. Most manufacturers protect themselves by providing information on the packaging that the product may contain gluten. Food products with such information on the label are plenty.
Gluten is widely used in processing because it gives the right and very desirable consistency of baked goods. Therefore, the gluten-free diet should pay particular attention to the composition of products. To make sure that the product does not contain gluten, it is best to reach for products that have the cross-out bar symbol on the label. The production of food with this sign is carefully separated, examined for the content of gluten proteins and closely monitored by special control units.
Gluten-free diet and slimming
A gluten-free diet is not a slimming diet. There is no scientific evidence to support the beneficial effect of gluten loss on body weight loss. Analyzing the composition of finished gluten-free products, one can notice significant amounts of fats (double the amount of saturated fatty acids) and sugar, which in turn may affect the delivery of more energy to the body. It is often noticed that gluten-free products are more caloric than their gluten-like counterparts.
The noticeable weight loss in some people using a gluten-free diet may result from the reduction of carbohydrates, especially cereal products with a high glycemic index such as white bread, fine-grained groats, semolina, couscous or white pasta. Weight loss may also occur as a result of eating fewer calories than the body’s needs, it is not dependent on the amount of gluten in the diet. Both white bread and brown rice provide kilocalories. Eating too much of one or the other product may increase weight.