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Decoding gluten-free diet: It may not affect your weight loss

According to experts, unless gluten intolerance is proven, one should not quit it and ignore its health benefits.

fitness Updated: Sep 23, 2017 16:34 IST
Prerna Gauba
According to experts, if you are not allergic to gluten then it’s important for you to consume gluten.
According to experts, if you are not allergic to gluten then it’s important for you to consume gluten.(Istock)

Popular American chef, James Beard once said, “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” However today, the demand for bread has gone down because of the rise of the conscious eater and the Internet. Most of us are unaware about gluten intolerance or have varied assumptions about gluten. And this is probably the reason why we now avoid bread. But experts disagree.“Unless you are proven gluten intolerant, you shouldn’t leave it,” says nutritionist Kavita Devgan.

All about Gluten

Khandvi -Gluten free Indian Gujarati snack made of chickpea flour. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Gluten is the protein part of wheat. Gluten is the reason why the atta (flour) binds, when you add water to it. The same thing would not happen to almond flour or coconut flour, since they have no gluten. Experts suggest that earlier, gluten did not affect us as are gut was used to it. “The problem with the current state of gluten, is the strain of wheat from which it is derived. Agriculture came into function and in order to get more yield from a crop to feed the growing population, the processing methods changed drastically, affecting the quality of wheat,” says nutrition and diabetes expert Rashi Chowdhary. As a result, more than 80% of people are sensitive to gluten and don’t even know it.

Symptoms if you are gluten intolerant

Uttapam made of sooji (semolina) has gluten but you can replace the grain with ragi or amaranth. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Gluten takes place in our gut and this causes histamine levels to go up, which causes inflammation in our gut, over a period of time. The exposure of these unwanted ingredients in the gut can lead to auto immune diseases, diabetes, Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD), metabolic syndrome etc. Your stomach might also be affected as you can suffer from diarrhoea and indigestion in different forms.

However, if you don’t have any of these symptoms then you are not gluten intolerant. “If you don’t have any metabolic issues like thyroid, diabetes or gut issues like constipation, bloating, feeling gassy or you are not carrying extra weight around then you are probably not sensitive to gluten,” says Chowdhary.

Experts also state that if you are not allergic to gluten then it’s important for you to consume gluten. However, you should do it in moderation. “If you completely stop consuming gluten, then your body stops producing the bacteria that helps in its digestion. Therefore, don’t quit gluten, rather have it in moderation,” cautions Devgan.

What to eat and how to eat

The best way to go about it is to rotate your grains, “There is a problem when we overdo a grain. A diet should have different cereals and lentils mixed together. Having gluten once a day for those who aren’t intolerant is more than sufficient,” adds Devgan. Gluten-free substitutes in order of preference are almond flour, coconut flour, sweet potato, rice, quinoa and ragi.

Gluten and weight loss

If you are not gluten intolerant then you don’t need to leave gluten while trying to lose weight. According to Chowdhary, gluten-free is not a fad and is here to stay and help people who are genuinely sensitive, “The reason why gluten intolerant people feel happy after leaving gluten, is because their production of happy hormone, serotonin goes up,” says Chowdhary.