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Gluten free diets can do more harm than good. Here’s how to stay healthy

What does gluten free mean? Is it supposed to be healthy? Is it low-carb? We bust some myths around gluten free diets.

fitness Updated: May 15, 2018 14:22 IST
Meenakshi Iyer
Is gluten free diet healthy?
Is gluten free diet healthy?(Shutterstock)

Gluten-free menus, gluten-free labels and the people who are actually going gluten-free have started something of a revolution around the food aisles of the supermarket. The anti-gluten brigade has left the bread section completely deserted, unless they go there looking for some gluten-free bread.

How did gluten become our enemy?

Gluten is a protein primarily found in wheat, barley and rye. Around just a percentage of the total population suffers from a condition called coeliac disease. Doctors advise a gluten-free diet to these people to help them cope with the disease.

Though coeliac disease has been around for centuries, it got attention only recently when researchers linked it to gluten in people’s diets. However, people who probably don’t suffer from this condition are also inclined to go on gluten-free diet thinking it is healthy.

According to Ian Marber, nutritionist and founder, Truefarm Foods, “Gluten free doesn’t mean healthier and many products that are free from gluten have more fat and sugar in them, which is used to add the texture that gluten might have added. One has to look out for such elements and remember that gluten isn’t bad for us; it is harmful for people with coeliac disease.”

Here are some more myths about gluten that we need to be aware about:

A “gluten free” diet is not necessarily gluten free: What his means is that even if the label reads gluten free, the product may have been manufactured in a facility along with other products that may or may not be gluten free. So, how much can one trust labels then?

Gluten free means healthy: This is not true for those who do not suffer from coeliac disease. “People assume removing gluten from their diets will help them reduce the number of unhealthy foods they eat. However, foods which contain gluten have important nutrients for your health. Certain minerals and vitamins like folate, fibre, calcium, potassium, iron, and more are found in them,” says nutritionist Neha Sahaya.

Gluten free diets are low carb: Yes, there’s carbs present in good that has gluten. But something that doesn’t have gluten is not necessarily low carb. Think potatoes, sugar, fruits.

Everyone should go gluten-free: This is more certainly not true. “Many people want to go gluten free thinking it will help them, but they need to medically check themselves for gluten allergy. If a person has been eating gluten most of their life, it is unlikely that they are allergic to gluten,” adds Sahaya.

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