Should I Follow a Gluten Free Diet?

As a dietetic intern, I get frequent questions about gluten free diets. Most of these questions have been prompted by articles on Facebook, websites and celebrity’s books. I can’t believe all the claims being made for gluten free diets such as, gluten free diets help with weight loss, increase energy and concentration, improve autism and rheumatoid arthritis, and in general are supposed to be healthier.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. Food we consume everyday like cookies, cakes, pizza, pasta, cereals and breads have gluten in them.

Approximately 1% of the population has a medical condition called celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine lining and  prevents absorption of nutrients from foods that are consumed. The damage is due to a reaction of eating gluten.

Most of us will not benefit from a gluten free diet. There is no current evidence that eating a gluten free diet will help with weight loss or is a healthier diet in general. In addition, not consuming these food products means you may be lacking essential nutrients like iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate and  fiber in your diet.

Interestingly, research has shown that gluten free products are higher in fat. Looking at the nutrition of a regular vs. a gluten free food product; 1 slice of regular multigrain bread has 120 calories, 1 gram of total fat and has 12% of your daily fiber intake and 15% of your daily intake of iron (based on 2,000 calorie diet). Gluten free multigrain bread has 80 calories, 3.5 grams of total fat, 4 % of your daily fiber intake and 2 % of your daily iron intake.

The cost of eating gluten free products is significantly higher. Gluten free products cost 242% more than regular products and lack variety. The graph below shows the food cost comparison of regular items vs. gluten free items.

Gluten Chart

So before you consider switching to a gluten free diet, consider saving money and eating non- gluten free foods that provide you with excellent nutrition and health benefits. Also, if you have symptoms of celiac disease (gas, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss/gain, fatigue) contact your healthcare provider to set up an appointment for appropriate screening.

The Mythbusters poster was created by an ISU nutrition class. Let’s bust the myths!

Print

True or False? 

Gluten free diet is a healthier diet for everyone.

Gluten free products have fewer calories.

Gluten containing grains contribute to more than 75% of typical daily grain consumption.

Celiac disease is a food allergy.

Celiac disease is easy to diagnosis.

Gluten free diet can compromise gut immunity.

Check back for the answers Tuesday, June 18, 2013 on our facebook page!  https://www.facebook.com/spendsmarteatsmart
Abbie Brekken, ISU Dietetic Intern
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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5 thoughts on “Should I Follow a Gluten Free Diet?

  1. Thank you for sharing this important info about the gluten free trends and myths around it. Working as a nutrition educator for WIC, we often have clients asking questions about what they hear in the media regarding gluten free being healthier for them and their families, even kids. Also waiting for diagnosis or dismissal if my 16 month old grandson has celiac disease. The testing has been ongoing and extensive and it is difficult for us waiting to find out if he has it or not. Thank you again. We are sharing this in our next all Staff inservice meeting with all of our RD’s and WIC educator staff.

  2. Thanks for debunking this annoying myth of the all powerfull gluten free diet. I also think you should write more posts about dieting in general as i can see you are very clear and to the point.

  3. Wow thuat was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my coomment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just anted to say excellent blog!

  4. I have also heard that the gluten free diet is actually higher in fat than most other diets and that most people will not benefit from this type of diet. However, I was unaware that a gluten free diet actually robs me of the essential nutrients that my body needs. I basically stick with a well balanced protein, carbohydrate and low fat diet.

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