The Gluten-Free Diet: Dangers Revealed

Going gluten-free just because? It could do your health more harm than good.

Sure, for one percent of Australians living with coeliac disease, consuming gluten is very dangerous.

But for the growing number of Australians eliminating gluten without a clear reason to do so, going gluten-free is also very dangerous.

So why are so many people hating on gluten?

Unfortunately, gluten is associated with carb-loaded, ‘naughty’ foods.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, oats, barley and rye, which means it’s found in breads, pastas, crackers and baked goods.

These foods don’t exactly fit the perfect, Instagram-worthy clean eating profile.

But nutritionists are worried ditching gluten in the hope of achieving this idea of ‘ultimate wellness’ is cutting out important food groups and ultimately causing serious health concerns.

Basically, going gluten-free is necessary for a very small percentage of Australians, but for the rest, following a gluten-free diet is a potentially dangerous fad.

Here’s a few things to consider before making any drastic changes to your diet.

It Could Cause Havoc With Your Gut

If your health is a priority, you’ve probably heard about the importance of good gut health. It’s increase in popularity from the media isn’t a fad, it’s more so an advance to health science.  

So what does gluten have to do with the gut? A lot, actually.

Dietary-fibre from grains is vital towards maintaining good bacteria in the gut. This good bacteria is associated with numerous health benefits such as mental health, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.  

Not to mention dietary-fibre plays a key role in keeping you regular.

So, if you’ve got better things to do than sit on the toilet all day, or worse, the hospital, keep your gut happy with the goodness of grains.

Try: If you’re lacking in dietary-fibre from grains, make sure you get a dose from other sources. These include; fruit, vegetables, nuts and lentils.

You Could Put on Weight and Increase Your Risk of Diabetes

Contrary to the belief of ditching gluten to lose weight and get healthy, packaged foods labelled gluten-free more often than not contain more preservatives serving up dangerous side effects.

Basically, when gluten is removed, a replacement needs to fill its spot.

While some gluten-free brands are still nutritious, a lot try to compensate the missing ingredient by adding extra sugar and fat to enhance flavour as well as emulsifiers and thickeners to improve the texture.

Unlike whole grain products taking the fibre-rich contents from the bran, the vitamins and minerals from the seed, plus the carbohydrates from the starchy-centre, packaged gluten-free foods miss out on all this goodness in favour of carbohydrate substitutes from refined rice, corn or potato flours.  

And what does a spike in carbohydrates and sugars do? It can bring on a sharp rise in blood sugar levels which may prompt type 2 diabetes.

Try: If you’re not gluten-intolerant, opt for whole grain varieties of breads, cereals, pastas, crackers, biscuits and baked goods. Whole grain products use all three parts of the grain making a fibre-rich bundle of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.  

Don’t be fooled by fancy packaging and always read the ingredients list. As a general rule, avoid products if you can’t recognise more than two ingredients.

It’s Just Another Fad

Remember the grapefruit diet of the 50s? What about the crazy baby food diet, or worse, the tapeworm diet?

Three things these diets all had in common were they failed, were dangerous and nothing but fads.

Unfortunately, the gluten-free diet ticks all these boxes too.

The fad is so popular, there’s even gluten-free diets available for dogs.

Try: Stop following fads or trends and start eating a variety of foods in accordance with the food pyramid. If you need expert advice due to allergies or disease, consult a qualified dietitian or nutritionist to work on a diet plan that suits you.

You Could Miss Out on Valuable Nutrients

Where did all the Weetbix and Vegemite marketing go?

Perhaps smoothie bowls look better on our news feed, but cereal and bread actually have lots of nutritional benefits such as calcium and phosphorus which seem to go unrecognised.

In fact, studies have shown a gluten-free diet can be deficient in iron, vitamin B12, folate, niacin, thiamine and riboflavin.

These nutrients are critical for all kinds of bodily functions from the immune system to energy levels and even producing healthy babies.

When we remove gluten from the diet, we’re losing these nutrients we wouldn’t normally associate with a piece of toast.

Try: If you find yourself eating a lot of gluten-free foods, try adding a vitamin supplement to your diet. Remember, those with coeliac disease can experience serious nutrient deficiencies, and therefore should follow diet advice from a nutritionist or doctor.

Your Grocery Bill Will Go Up

As we said earlier, gluten-free is a fad. So, anything labelled GF is also served with a not-so-nice price tag.

In fact, one Canadian study discovered gluten-free foods cost a monstrous 242% more than foods including the unpopular ingredient.

Still think going gluten-free is worth it?

Try: Instead of spending big on the word ‘gluten-free’, spend the extra dollars on local produce. Not only will you be supporting local business, you will do your health wonders eating fresh and with the seasons.

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