Can I eat gluten free diet? are there any health benefits in ditching gluten in my diets? I have considered going gluten free for some time now, not because I have any dietary condition but because my friend is talking me into going gluten free. She is non celiac gluten sensitive.
This got me thinking, can I really eat gluten free diet for the rest of my life? I started doing my research and here are my findings.
Can I eat Gluten free diet?
If you are on gluten free diet, you will constantly have to read labels on foods, beware of cross contamination, pay premium price for ‘free from foods’, be careful where you eat out, use substitutes, avoid some alcohols as beers and lagers are made from barley. Ciders, wines, ports and spirit might be ok. But need to ask to make sure.
Lets start with the obvious question, What is gluten free?
Gluten is derived from the Latin word ‘glue’. Gluten is the protein composite found in wheat, Rye, Barley, Semolina, Bulgur, Durum, Farina, and Spelt. This protein is responsible for the glue like texture when water and yeast are added to wheat flour. This network of protein trap the gases produced by the yeast. As the gases expand they make the dough rise. The gluten protein is what makes bread holds it shape and texture.
Gluten is also found in foods that use wheat flour as a thickening agent.Other culprit of gluten include, Pasta, cereals, Beer, cakes, cookies and pastries.
Who should avoid Gluten
- Sufferers of Celiac /Coeliac disease: This is an autoimmune condition where the in immune system attack the micro villi in the small intestine after eating anything that contains gluten. Basically the immune system gets confused and fight gluten protein because it deems it a foreign material. This reaction by the immune system may cause abdominal pains, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, or even damage the intestinal wall of the small intestine and prevent the body from absorbing vital nutrient from food resulting in vitamins and mineral deficiency, liver damage, hormone disruption, symptoms of anaemia, loss of weight and fatigue.
Having said that, nutrient deficiency in the general population and not just those suffering from celiac disease is very common.
Celiac condition affects 1 in 100 in the UK and 1 in 133 in the USA according to NHS and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and kidney diesease
- Wheat Allergy: This type of condition is when your antibodies react to wheat protein in your body causing a nasty reaction such as hives, facial swelling and difficulty in breathing
- Non Celiac gluten sensitivity: This condition simple means the person is sensitive to gluten and eating gluten may cause gastrointestinal symptoms but, not damage the small intestine.
If you are wondering, Can I eat gluten free diet? you should consult your doctor first and get tested as its a lifetime commitment.
Carbohydrate Versus Gluten:
Have you wondered if gluten and carbohydrates are the same?. They are not the same. Carbohydrates consist of molecules of sugar. There are two types, simple carbohydrates or sugars and complex carbohydrate or starch. Carbohydrates do primary task. The sugars and the starches are used by the cells in our bodies to produce energy and help to breakdown fat. Simple sugars get to the body really quickly through the blood stream and complex carbohydrates take slightly longer as they take time to digest.
Gluten on the other hand is a protein made up of two components. Gliadin and Glutenin. In summary Gluten is a type of protein and carbohydrate is sugar.
So what is the fuss about gluten free products? Are they really the best? Why do gluten free products fetch premium price? Are they worth the price?
I went on the hunt and started reading labels with gluten free products. Here are my results. The shops I used are mainly found in the UK. Take a look at the table. I compared gluten free pasta as against gluten full. Well I decided to use the word gluten full for lack of better word. Maybe a bit of exaggeration but seriously that is what it is, gluten full means it contains gluten.
I decided to buy gluten free pasta because I enjoy eating pasta and it’s a staple in everyone’s shopping cart.
A 2007 survey conducted by Green and his colleagues found that gluten-free pastas and breads were twice the price of conventional products. I conducted my own experiment and found similar results.
Gluten Free Penne Pasta by UGO 300g @ £1.79
Gluten Full. Own brand by waitrose 1kg @£ 1.20
Nutritional Value per 100g per 100g
Energy 179kcal 160kcal
Fat 0.8g 0.7g
Carbohydrate 38.5 32g
Fibre 1.5g 1.4g
Protein 3.5g 5g
Here is another one I compared in a table below. Seeded bread is something I buy all the time so if I am going to go on gluten free diet and use gluten free products then I want to know what I am getting.
Waitrose gluten free seeded bread against own brand gluten full seeded bread.
|Waitrose Gluten free seeded bread 400g @ £2.39||Waitrose livlife seriously seeded bread 500g @ £1.59|
|Nutritional Value per Slice||per Slice||per Slice|
The next gluten free product I used is Quorn Sausage. I personally don’t use this product very much but I know some friends who do and I have tried it and it tasted just like meat. So I decided to go for this product. Again I used Waitrose.
|Quorn Sausage Gluten free 100g @ £2.49||Quorn Sausage Gluten, full Wild garlic and parsley 240g @ 2.50|
|Nutritional value||per 100g||per 100g|
The last product I chose was pizza base. I like to get pizza bases when I fancy a pizza night. I usually add what ever toppings I want. So I figured it was important I look into that as well. Here was the result. Again I compared a gluten free one with gluten full on the waitrose website
|Gluten free Pizza base|
x 2 pieces @ £3.09
|Napolina x2 pieces gluten full @ £1.70|
|Nutritional value||per 100g||per 100g|
So my question is why do I want pay so much for so little nutrient intake when God willing I am perfectly normal and have no allergy whatsoever. Is this trendy or just following blindly. It must be hard for those genuinely suffering from celiac disease as this lifestyle is a complete commitment for the rest of ones life.
What foods occur in nature as gluten free:
There are so many foods that are gluten free.
- Most fruits and vegetables are gluten free.
- sweet potatoes
- dairy products such as milk and cheese are gluten free too.
- Legumes and beans
Grains that are gluten free includes
- maize or corn
- Arrowroot and
Based on my research, I ask this, is gluten free health hype? Gluten free does not mean calorie free and fat free. Going gluten free can back fire and may result in weight gain when you eat over processed gluten free products.
Packaged and store bought gluten-free foods and products can be highly processed and calorie-dense due to added sugar and fat, which can contribute to weight gain as you can see from the tables. If you are not affected by gluten, then there is no point in going on a gluten free diet.
Careful meal planning, introducing lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet and cutting down on carbohydrate will help achieve a healthier life style.
Eating a big bowl of cereal for breakfast or bacon roll sandwich, a panini sandwich with a bag of crisp for lunch, and a big bowl of pasta or pizza, sit all day and not exercise will make you feel uncomfortable, get migraine, have chronic fatigue syndrome and you will put weight on.
Bottom Line, is there are plenty of natural substitutes to use unless you are celiac or suffering from proven medical condition. Buying over processed shop bought product is not necessarily healthy. Read the labels clearly before you spend your money.