Is the Gluten-Free Trend Over?
7-8 years ago, the book Wheat Belly hit the shelves - and the New York Times Bestseller list.
It set off a chain of events - including making us all wonder if our morning bagel was making us sick. As far as food trends go, bread was deemed bad. It was the enemy. And the market heard our thoughts. In fact, the gluten-free food market became worth billions upon billions of dollars (and still is).
But we know a little more now than we did almost a decade ago. Let’s dive in a little deeper.
Is Gluten Really Bad For You?
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. It basically acts as a glue, holding the food product - like bread - together. And there are thousands of types of gluten found in different types of grains.
For individuals with celiac disease, gluten is bad. Celiac disease is defined as an autoimmune disease where the intestines have difficulty digesting gluten. The result? It damages the small intestines and messes with your body’s ability to absorb other nutrients. It can lead to an array of complications caused by nutrient deficiencies, including anemia and osteoporosis.
Doctors have primarily attributed the cause of Celiac disease to genetics, and blood tests will show whether you have it or not.
Surprisingly, only about 1% of the population has this disease. But you can also have a gluten intolerance.
Yet, it might not be entirely gluten’s fault. Your nutrition and microbiome may be more so to blame. In other words, there are other factors at play that can increase your sensitivity to gluten. And fixing those factors can make gluten tolerable.
Why Were We So Quick to Blame Gluten?
Humans like easy fixes. That’s why quick fad diets and food trends sell so well. It’s instant gratification. But they rarely work (However, if you are on a gluten free diet, there is no danger in doing so).
Gluten was an easy target. Studies were emerging showing how celiac disease works. It confused the general public (us included).
This happens A LOT. Back in the day, we blamed cholesterol and fat for our health issues. However, it was uncovered that the study showing these results was funded by the sugar industry. We’ve realized cholesterol and fat aren’t the end-all, be-all to our health problems or the obesity epidemic. But that’s a whole other topic for a whole other time.
Okay, So Why is My Digestion So Bad?
“I’m bloated all the time.”
“My stomach just always feels off.”
“Most foods makes my stomach hurt.”
“No matter what I eat, I’m tired all the time.”
The real problem lies in the Western diet. Most of our food isn’t exactly real food. It’s been processed, refined, chemically-altered, and packaged.
In other words, you don’t necessarily need to go gluten-free to feel better. It might be more what you’re eating with the gluten that is causing the problem.
For instance, that muffin loaded with polyunsaturated fats is absolutely messing with your metabolism and ultimately, your digestion. It’s processed. It’s full of sugar and full of a bad combination of food that isn’t optimizing your health or the normal processes within your body.
These foods cause huge blood sugar spikes and widespread inflammation - inhibiting your normal functioning and normal digestion.
The other side to all of this? People are consuming far too many of these products. It overloads your body’s ability to keep up, and then you experience pain and bloating.
What Does a ‘Healthy’ Diet Look Like?
Here’s the other thing: Most gluten-containing foods are heavily processed.
The best type of diet involves sticking to whole and natural foods. This means minimizing pre-packaged products and emphasizing cooking at home so you know what is actually going into your food.
Follow the 80-20 Rule
Want an easy way to eat healthy while still enjoying your life? The 80-20 rule is where it’s at. 80% of the time you eat healthy and whole foods like veggies, whole grains, and fruits. The other 20% of the time, you cut yourself some slack. This means at special occasions or that night out for dinner, you can indulge a little. Have that glass of wine or that slice of chocolate cake for dessert.
Eating healthy doesn’t mean a restrictive diet where you cut out sugar, gluten, salt, or any other food or nutrient. It comes down to a nutrition balance. That’s exactly what the 80-20 rule is all about.
Listen to Your Body
If that muffin tastes oh-so-good but doesn’t sit well in your stomach, don’t eat it. Your body will tell you what feels good and what doesn’t. Pay attention to it! It’s your biggest ally in your fight to live a healthier and better life. Tune in and keep track. Limit the foods that you know upset your stomach.
Again, it’s okay to indulge every one and a while. Just don’t overdo it!
That’s Great - But What Kind of Foods Should I Be Eating?
We’re glad you asked. Here’s our list of the foods you should start including more of in your diet:
- Veggies on veggies! Vegetables are jam-packed with nutrition and health benefits.
- Eat more fruit. Sugar gets a bad rap. But when it is mixed with good nutritional compounds found in fruit - it’s not all that bad.
- Try fish. Lots of fish contain Omega-3s, which are thought to protect the body against an array of diseases, such as heart disease.
- Cut out pre-packaged and high processed foods. Start making more food from scratch.
- Drink more water. Cut out sugary beverages. Instead, reach for a glass of healthy H2O.
- If you’re the type to cave in to your cravings, eat a healthy and filling breakfast. It’ll help you avoid those cravings and keep you from buying that mid-morning chocolate chip muffin or donut.
Get Your Facts Straight!
Gluten isn’t all bad, although we’ve gotten a ton of mixed messages about it. It’s time to start taking more control of your diet. What can you change? How can you improve it? (Hint: It might not involve cutting out gluten.)
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