Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Gluten 101

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Based on the number of frustrating conversations I’ve had with people regarding gluten it seems like there are a few things that need clarification. I know that you, my lovely regular readers don’t, but on the off chance that someone in need of guidance is googling gluten perhaps they’ll stumble across this post.

Let’s start with the fact that going gluten-free is not the magical cure-all that many self-appointed nutrition gurus would have you believe. Yes, people with celiac disease, gluten allergies and intolerances will most definitely benefit from eliminating sources of gluten from their diets. However, if you are not suffering from any of these conditions (I might add self-diagnosis is not advisable) there is absolutely no need to eliminate gluten from your diet. I do believe that variety is more than the spice of life and it’s important to consume a variety of grains, too much of any one food is not going to be of benefit to your body. That being said, eliminating gluten is not a magical weight loss cure. It’s the same as eliminating any major contributor of calories; if you consume fewer calories as a result of eliminating it you will lose weight, if you simply replace those calories with those from other foods you will not lose weight. It seems like gluten is the latest villain in the dietary world. If only we could eliminate gluten then we would all be migraine-free, cured of diverticulitis, ¬†there would be no more arthritis, or ADHD, perhaps we could even attain world peace!

Okay… so going gluten-free won’t cure everything but if you are going gluten-free the first thing you need to know is what foods contain gluten, and what foods don’t. I’ve had the fun time of trying to explain to people that if a food is gluten-free then it’s also wheat-free while they have been adamant that the reverse is true. It reminds me of the logic lessons in elementary school: all tulips are flowers, that doesn’t mean that all flowers are tulips. Gluten is found in a number of grains: wheat, rye, barley, triticale, and often oats (most oats are cross contaminated but some gluten-free oats are available and may be tolerated by people who cannot consume gluten). For a complete list of ingredients to avoid if you’re going gluten-free visit celiac.ca. You also need to be aware that there’s a risk of cross-contamination if foods are grown, processed, or prepared in close proximity to gluten-containing foods.

If you’re going gluten-free you don’t need to eliminate all grains and starchy foods. Despite what some people have tried to tell me, rice, potatoes, corn, and quinoa do not contain gluten. Celiac.ca has another great list of foods that you can eat if you’re unable to consume gluten.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

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