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Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthy? It’s up to YOU!

November 17, 2010

You may have heard a lot of news about Gluten-Free diets lately, and discussion of whether this is indeed a healthy diet or not.  While it is of course medically necessary for individuals with Celiac disease to maintain a strict Gluten-Free diet for life, many people not diagnosed as Celiac are now adopting a Gluten-Free lifestyle for other reasons.  Many have some degree of Gluten Sensitivity or simply find that they feel healthier and more energetic without having Gluten in their diets.

The Gluten-Free bandwagon has really gotten rolling as many well-known celebrities and media figures have come forward as having Celiac disease – we’d name names but you know them already.  Several have become advocates of Gluten-Free living for reasons ranging from clearer skin to increased energy to weight loss, and many parents find their children with Autism and ADHD dramatically improving in cognition and function while on a Gluten-Free diet.  All of these factors have contributed to the increased interest in living Gluten-Free and increased demand for Gluten-Free products, to the point that Gluten-Free has even become referred to as a “fad.”

Yet recent media stories have portrayed Gluten-Free diets as unhealthy – even dangerous – for anyone not diagnosed with Celiac disease.  The reasoning behind this revolves around a few key assertions:

  1. Gluten-Free diets are lacking in fiber.
  2. Those on a Gluten-Free diet often experience B Vitamin deficiencies since they are not eating fortified or “enriched” flours made from wheat.
  3. Those on a Gluten-Free diet often also eliminate Dairy, and therefore may suffer Calcium deficiencies.

We at Crave believe that a Gluten-Free diet can be healthy, and as real people eating healthy Gluten-Free diets, we put it into practice.  Now, much as we might like to, that doesn’t mean we eat our cupcakes every day.  Dessert should most definitely have its place, but healthy eating is healthy eating.  Gluten-Free diets can be as healthy as you make them, and let’s be clear:  The notion of “The Gluten-Free Diet” is somewhat of a misconception.

There is no one Gluten-Free diet.  In fact, all being Gluten-Free means is omitting a few specific things from your food intake.  It doesn’t say anything about what else you eat.  You could exist entirely on alfalfa sprouts or bacon – both are naturally Gluten-Free, though one is much better for you than the other.  Let’s face it, though, either one alone would be hard to take.  We like variety in our diets, and we should be thankful of the abundance of choices most of us have.

It is true that wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives are in much of the processed food available to consumers in the U.S. marketplace.  In simple terms, however, eliminating those three grains from the myriad natural whole foods we can eat is not such a big loss nutritionally.  And enriched, bleached white flour (the primary source of Gluten in American diets) is really not all that good for you to begin with – regardless of who you are or what your condition may be.  The fact is that all of the nutrients that are said to be missing from a Gluten-Free diet can – and should – come from other sources:

  1. There is plenty of fiber to be found in fresh fruits and vegetables, and in whole Gluten-Free grains.
  2. Green vegetables, bananas, potatoes, eggs, and meat are all excellent sources of B Vitamins.
  3. Dark green leafy vegetables are natures best source of Calcium!  And if you can tolerate Dairy, it is also Calcium-rich.

Whether we practice it or not, most of us know what healthy eating means.  Eating a well-rounded diet and making educated food choices that contribute to one’s overall well-being are key to health, Gluten-Free or not.  Gluten-Free specialty products, including baked goods, can be part of a healthy GF diet, but the focus should be on eating fresh, wholesome foods that are naturally Gluten-Free.

The whole world of fruits and vegetables is available to you.  If you eat meat, make sure it is natural and unprocessed, or labeled Gluten-Free, and you’re safe.  Likewise with Dairy products.  Broaden your grain horizons and get to know Quinoa, a versatile, delicious, and nutrient-packed whole grain.  You have a cornucopia of wholesome food choices awaiting you.

If you think you may have Gluten Sensitivity, have a child with Autism or ADHD, or simply want to see how you feel without Gluten in your diet, there is no reason to fear that going Gluten-Free will endanger your health.  Simply continue to make wise food choices, like eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  If you have been diagnosed as Celiac, embrace your lifestyle change and know that improved health awaits you.  Make YOUR Gluten-Free diet a healthy one!

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