The INSIDER summary:
- Gluten-free diets are a huge nutrition trend right now.
- But unless you have Celiac disease or a serious wheat allergy or intolerance, you shouldn’t go gluten-free for the long term, nutrition specialist Dr. Caroline Apovian argues.
- When you forsake all wheat products, you’re depriving your body of important nutrient like fiber, antioxidants, and iron that aren’t easily replaced.
From paleo to Whole30, nearly every popular diet trend out there nowadays is gluten-free. Gluten itself has become almost a taboo word in the nutrition and weight loss community as more and more health-conscious people are shying away from wheat products.
But shunning gluten completely, unless you have a serious wheat allergy or have Celiac disease, may actually be more harmful than helpful to your diet.
Dr. Caroline Apovian, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center, argues that banning grain and wheat products from your pantry deprives your body of nutrients that it needs. Plus, gluten-free products are not all they’re cracked up to be, health-wise.
Here are a few reasons why you should reconsider your gluten-free diet:
Complex carbohydrates are vital to your health
“Whole grains are a vital part of a healthy diet,” Dr. Apovian told INSIDER. “They are great sources of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that help dieters to feel full longer between meals and keep the blood sugar stable.”
If you deprive your body of complex carbs, you run the risk of higher inflammation and insulin resistance, the doctor added. Think you can stave off these negative effects with a vitamin or supplement? Think again. Dr. Apovian says that though they can help, they’re not as beneficial as real food.
Gluten intolerance doesn’t affect many people
About one percent of the population has Celiac Disease, and a slightly larger number has gluten intolerance, according to the doctor. The organization Beyond Celiac cites the same statistics.
“[Carbs] are not inherently unhealthy or dangerous to humans on their own,” she said.
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Dropping gluten won’t make you lose weight
“Going gluten-free can actually result in weight gain,” Dr. Apovian said. “There is nothing inherently special about a gluten-free diet for weight loss in itself.”
When you’re on a gluten-free diet, your body is at high-risk for inflammation, which the doctor says can slow your metabolism down and actually make you gain weight. Your only chance for actually losing weight on a gluten-free diet is to skip the pre-packaged gluten-free goods, and replace grains with fresh produce and lean proteins, the doctor said.
Gluten-free packaged foods are usually unhealthy
“Often, consumers believe when a product is marked as ‘gluten-free’ it must be healthy. This is not the case,” Dr. Apovian said.
Processed gluten-free foods are usually higher in sugar, preservatives, and other unwelcome ingredients, she said — just one other reason why “gluten-free” is not synonymous with healthy.
Going gluten-free can wreak havoc on your body
“A gluten-free diet can malnourish the body,” the doctor said. “A lack of health-promoting carbs is associated with an increased risk of inflammation, insulin resistance, and problems with short-term memory function.”