I believe it’s important to fight against gluten-free stereotypes. Yeah, the community doesn’t always help itself by making claims about gluten-free health that are, well, suspect, but most of the misconceptions about the gluten-free lifestyle comes from people who embrace the diet for all the wrong reasons.
And then there’s the media, helping perpetuate myths. For example, The Greatest published a video entitled “5 Convincing Reasons You Shouldn’t Go Gluten-Free (sic) (Unless You Have To).” Oddly, the title in the URL is more accurate, saying “Why Gluten-Free Diets Aren’t Necessarily Healthy.” And we’ll get to that in just a moment.
First, I’d like to address the five convincing reasons, and why they aren’t all that convincing. Spoiler: it’s all about execution. A healthy gluten-free diet — or a healthy overall diet — comes in the form of good balance and making sure you’re eating foods that work hard for you. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains (except, you know, wheat, barley, or rye), lean proteins, dairy, fats, legumes, nuts…you get the picture. Eliminate processed foods, and you pretty much eliminate all five of the “convincing reasons”.
(Note: Over the next five weeks, I’m going to get into specifics about each of the myths, including tips for ensuring you maintain a healthy and delicious gluten-free diet.)
- Weight Gain: The video suggests that you will gain weight on a gluten-free diet. It is clear that the weight gain comes from swapping gluten-full foods with their gluten-free counterparts is the the equivalent of eating a steady diet of white bread. Guess what? You don’t have to gain weight.
- Extreme Fatigue: The video indicates that eliminating food groups like gluten (? in which Kassia learns gluten is a food group) and grains can lead to nutritional deficiencies, resulting in fatigue. Okay. But no. Eating gluten, especially when it comes in the form of extremely processed grains doesn’t give you energy. And a gluten-free diet, as I’ve written, doesn’t equal a nutritionally deficient diet.
- Less Money: Yes, it is true that gluten-free products are more expensive than their counterparts; however, an effective gluten-free diet doesn’t require special these expensive replacements for breads, cookies, crackers, and more. Gluten-free pasta is fairly reasonably priced, particularly if you don’t make an entire meal of the stuff.
- Mood Swings: According to the video, gluten-free foods lack B vitamins, leading to irritability and depression. Oh. My. God. Really? They’re blaming a gluten-free lifestyle for mood swings? I blame mine on perfectly normal hormones. Seriously, gluten-filled foods are not the only source of B vitamins. So, to reiterate: spinach, lentils, broccoli, bell peppers, fish, and so many more foods have B vitamins. And they’re all gluten free, naturally.
- Bloating and Constipation: The video notes that cutting out whole grains and other gluten-containing foods “…usually means less fiber in your daily diet…”. Again, these are not exclusive to a gluten-free diet, so I applaud the use of “usually” by the video makers. Pulses, like beans and lentils, offer up plenty of fiber. As do vegetables. And fruits. And whole grains like buckwheat and quinoa.
As mentioned, every one of these warnings about the dangers of a gluten-free diet are equally applicable to our modern diet and lifestyle. There is nothing special about being gluten free when it comes to these potential dietary issues. And while I am sure someone thought the whole video was funny — let’s make fun of the gluten-free folk! — it’s also irresponsible. Someone who is just starting down the gluten-free path for health reasons might see this video and worry that their health will suffer.
If that person is you, I promise you will be fine…with the added bonus of no longer being sick all the time, no longer being exhausted all the time, no longer wandering through life in a brain fog, and, well, so many other associated health problems.
Tip of the Week
I cannot overemphasize this: a healthy diet depends on whole, real foods. Avoid processed foods helps you avoid extraneous calories, too much salt, too much sugar, too many carbs, and bad fats.
Gluten-Free Meal of the Week
As I’ve mentioned, our household is cutting down on meat. However, there are days when nothing will satisfy me like a good steak. My compromise generally comes in the form of a good steak salad. I balance the meat with greens and veggies to ensure I’m getting a good balance of nutrients (also, right now I’m going through a Serious Salad Phase!).
The best thing about steak salads is that you can make them however you like. Want some sliced baby potatoes, or have some leftover from another meal? Toss ’em in. Have some berries or other fruit? Those work just fine. Pickled onions? Sliced onions? Green beans? Beets? All good.
Steak Salad with Mixed Greens, Avocado, and Snap Peas