Gluten-free foods are an increasingly common sight on store shelves. Part of the reason is a better understanding of celiac disease and gluten intolerance, but the celebrities who claim they've lost weight by going gluten-free is also adding fuel to the fire. Going gluten-free is vitally important for people who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but the research shows that it isn't an automatic way to lose weight.
The main misconception behind a gluten-free weight loss meal plan is that all the carbs in traditional grain products contribute to bloating and weight gain. That simply isn't true, according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
Other common misconceptions include believing that gluten-free foods are healthier and that gluten-free diets are recommended specifically for weight loss. The results of the study indicate that there needs to be more public awareness of what gluten-free foods are as well as better labeling so that people can eat them as part of a healthy diet.
How Weight Loss Works
The bottom line when it comes to weight loss is to consume fewer calories than are burned on a daily basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can best be done by cutting your calorie intake and getting more exercise. To lose one pound per week, you must create a deficit of 3,500 calories. While this may be possible with gluten-free foods, it isn't guaranteed.
In fact, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health states that there is no evidence that eliminating gluten from the diet will produce weight loss. The following considerations help shed light on the topic.
- Some gluten substitutes, such as potato starch, actually contain more calories than wheat, rye or barley.
- Replacing wheat, rye or barley with high fiber grain alternatives, such as quinoa, might produce weight loss because the additional fiber satisfies the appetite and staves off hunger.
- A gluten-free diet may produce weight loss at the outset because many processed foods are eliminated and often the consumption of fruits and vegetables goes up.
- Individuals who suffer from celiac disease aren't thin because they eat a gluten-free diet, but are often that way due to the malabsorption issues associated with the condition.
The key to weight loss is balancing calories. That can be done with a gluten-free diet, but is just as easy to achieve without eliminating gluten.
Gluten-Free Diet Risks
Clearly, a person with celiac disease or gluten intolerance is much better off sticking to a gluten-free diet. This can still be a healthy way of eating with careful planning and consideration of the alternative foods that are consumed. However, according to the University of Wisconsin, there are risks involved for those who don't have to be gluten-free. These are important things to consider before attempting to lose weight with a gluten-free meal plan.
- Eliminating certain grains can reduce your overall intake of certain nutrients, including B vitamins, iron and calcium.
- Some gluten-free alternative grains are lower in fiber than their counterparts. Not only can this lead to constipation, but fiber helps suppress your appetite, so consuming too little can actually interfere with successful weight loss.
- Eliminating gluten can mess with your intestine's natural bacteria balance, which can lead to a variety of digestive disturbances.
- Most medical professionals and registered dieticians don't recommend a gluten-free diet unless you suffer from a gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
The underlying message is that a gluten-free diet might produce weight loss, but unless you have a health reason to follow the diet, you're better off taking the old fashioned and most successful route to dropping those excess pounds; that is, cutting calories and increasing exercise.
Choosing to go Gluten-Free
If you decide to attempt the gluten-free diet for weight loss, it's a good idea to understand it completely before getting started. This is especially true so that you can protect your health, but also so that you can achieve the results you want to by following it.
The Mayo Clinic makes the following suggestions.
- Eat plenty of naturally gluten-free foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, dairy foods and lean cuts of meat.
- Choose healthy alternative grains so that you can be sure you're fulfilling your daily nutrient requirements. Good choices include amaranth, buckwheat, flax, quinoa, brown rice and teff.
- Always read labels carefully to be sure you are choosing products without any gluten, but are also nutrient-dense.
While a gluten-free diet isn't always recommended for everyone, you can make it work if that's the choice you make. The University of Wisconsin strongly encourages you to work with a dietician or doctor to create a gluten-free diet that is both healthy and beneficial.
Answering the Question
A gluten-free diet isn't the right choice for everyone and can pose certain risks that must be weighed before embarking on it. Your best bet, according to the experts, is to create a meal plan that is low in calories and balance your intake with a healthy exercise program to help burn additional calories. You can achieve those goals with or without a gluten-free diet. The important thing is to eat a well-balanced meal plan so you can cover your nutritional needs while also losing weight.