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The Latest on Gluten-Free Diets

The gluten-free trend is still riding high. Is there any new research to support going without gluten? Nutrition Diva gives you the latest. 

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
Episode #318

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthier?

Q. Is adopting a gluten-free diet a healthier life choice?

A. It depends on how you do it. Grain-based foods tend to be the least nutritious and the most over-consumed foods in the modern diet. If going gluten-free means that you eat less bread, crackers, pasta, and pretzels and more legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts, that probably would improve the nutritional quality of your diet. 

If, on the other hand, you simply replace conventional bread, crackers, pasta, pretzels with gluten-free versions, you haven't made your diet any more nutritious. And if you're eating more cookies, muffins, cereal, and pancakes simply because they are gluten-free, you may actually be taking a step backward nutritionally.

In order to judge the nutritional quality of a diet, I have to know a lot more than just whether or not it includes gluten! 

Q. Are restaurants and food brands correct when they advertise gluten-free foods as a healthier alternative?

A. Not necessarily. Gluten-free means one thing and one thing only: that food does not contain that specific protein. It tells you nothing about a food's overall nutritional profile. A gluten-free burrito may still contain an entire day's worth of fat, calories, and sodium. A piece of gluten-free cheesecake may still blow your sugar budget for the weekend. 

References

Rubio-Tapia A, Ludvigsson JF, et al.  The prevalence of celiac disease in the United States. Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 Oct;107(10):1538-44; quiz 1537, 1545.

 

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