The Real Reasons, Part 1: Going Gluten-Free

Here’s the word on today’s biggest diet craze.

There are a lot of diets plan, old and new. We want to take some time to explore the health options out there. The Real Reasons is a series designed to help you navigate the maze and find your best nutrition plan.

The gluten-free craze is huge in America, probably more prevalent than you think. In fact, Gallup conducted a poll that shows that 21% of Americans actively try to include gluten-free foods in their diet. That’s one in five, or 68.4 million people. According to a study, 3.1 million Americans live completely gluten-free lifestyles, roughly one in a hundred. At this point, it’s safe to say the gluten-free lifestyle has moved on from fad to commonplace.

But why do people go gluten-free? Do doctors even recommend it?

And, oh yeah, what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein–not a carb, even though that’s what you’d think. It’s found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale—a newer grain that crosses between wheat and rye. It helps food maintain their shape, like glue holding food together. It gives bread that elasticity. That’s why a lot of gluten-free breads don’t have that stretchiness.

Where can you find gluten? In wheat products like bread, pasta, cereal, even salad dressing. It can also be found in soup, beer, and malt. You can also find it in foods that process with gluten-full foods. Even rice or quinoa could be cross-contaminated with the gluten, so check the labels if you’re trying to avoid it!

The fact is, going without gluten should boost your health and make you feel better overall. Here are some steps to follow on your journey there.

Starting the Journey

Many go gluten-free for medical reasons. Celiac disease is a fairly rare auto-immune disorder (about one in a hundred have it) that prevents people from eating gluten. Some also have gluten sensitivity, which can cause headaches and numbness for those without celiac disease. Some simply go gluten-free for the health benefits.

If you’re planning to go gluten-free, the shift will not be easy. Changing your diet never is! But if you find a plan and a community of like-minded people, you’ll have no problem sticking to a plan.  We want to emphasize the community aspect: people are amazing. You will find so many people supportive of your journey and lots of resources in friends and online.

One thing to keep your eyes open for are your nutrients. We can get a lot through flour that’s enriched with vitamins and minerals, and a lot of gluten-free products are refined and unenriched. So you may need to take supplements for things like calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D (especially if you’re also going dairy-free).

It’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional before going gluten-free. If you do have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, doctors will not be able to detect it without gluten in your system. Your health is the top priority. We’re very lucky to have medical experts so that we don’t have to diagnose ourselves!

The Benefits

There are obvious positives for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. But what about those of us just looking to improve our diets? Here are the benefits of going gluten-free!

·       Your stomach doesn’t fully digest wheat

Our stomachs actually can’t even fully digest wheat. That means some bits are left behind that ferment and produce gas. Reducing flatulence? Sounds like a plus.

·       Refined wheat is not enriched

Also, by avoiding wheat, you’re missing refined wheat, which has almost no nutritional value. Which means you won’t be missing it. Refined wheat is only good for you once it’s been enriched with nutrients. When you’re on the go, it can be hard to make sure you’re getting the right product. Once you go gluten-free, you can avoid the wheat entirely.

·       You’ll avoid leaky gut syndrome

Wheat can cause leaky gut syndrome. This condition causes your guts to leak into your bloodstream. This could lead to toxins in your bloodstream.

·       Wheat is pro-inflammatory

A pro-inflammatory agent turns quickly into sugar. This raises your body’s insulin levels, which is a no-no for diabetics. It can also cause inflammation at the cellular level.

·       It’ll help you cut down on the booze

Many beers and wines have gluten in them. If you’ll be avoiding gluten, you may have cause to avoid alcohol as well. Alcohol has negative effects on the brain, heart, liver, and pancreas, to name a few. We’re just saying.

·       You’ll increase your vitamin intake

Wheat contains phytic acid—considered an anti-nutrient. It prevents the absorption of minerals such as zinc, iron, and calcium.

·       Your skin may clear

Many people find that after a week or two of going gluten-free, their skin clears up and blemishes such as baggy eyes. Don’t take our word for it, try it out!

·       You won’t have to become a hermit

Luckily, the gluten-free lifestyle is not foreign in any part of this country. Most restaurants will have plenty of options for you. You won’t have to change the way you live. Here are even some great gluten-free recipes for you.

·       You’ll just feel better

The universal benefit is that people say they “just feel better” after going gluten-free. This is most likely a result of removing all the unhealthy starchy foods in your diet. With those excess carbs weighing you down, you’re freeing up room for fresh fruits and vegetables! You’ll find yourself more energized and feeling positive.

Eat Smart!

There’s so much in store for your gluten-free lifestyle! But beware—just because something is gluten-free does NOT mean it’s healthy.

Food companies are experts at getting you to spend money. There are so many processed, pre-packaged, mass-produced gluten-free treats packed with sugar and devoid of nutrients. Go to any grocery store and you’ll see just as much gluten-free junk food as “normal” junk food. Always read the labels so that you know what you’re putting in your body.

Just because those cookies come in an earth-toned package doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Are they gluten-free? Great! Read the label. See things in there like sugar? Flour (which turns into sugar)? Weird additives you’ve never heard of?

If you’re gluten-free but still struggling to feel great and lose weight, maybe you’re not actually eating any healthier. You still need to avoid those vegetable oils and trans fats.

What to Do?

Our favorite way to avoid the food industry’s tricks is to stick to foods that don’t have labels! So that means going for the fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle. Eat real food!

At Fresh n’ Lean we only use fresh, organic ingredients–and we’re gluten-free. Thus whatever your path is to going gluten-free, health is just around the corner. Shop smart and reap the benefits! You’ll be happier for the effort.

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