All three celebrities are sharing their so-called secret to good health and weight management. They are claiming that avoiding wheat or gluten is the diet of choice. The question that comes to mind is if they understand just how restrictive a wheat or gluten free diet really is. Wheat is one of three grains that contain the storage protein, more specifically called prolamin, that is considered toxic to those with celiac disease. The other grains are rye and barley with oats to a lesser extent.
When avoiding rye, barley, and/or wheat there are other ingredients that must be considered as well to make it a true wheat or gluten free diet. Triticale, for example, is a cereal grain that is a cross between wheat and rye; farina, bulgur, couscous, graham, semolina, durum, bulgur, kamut, kasha, matzo meal, spelt, and tabouli are made from wheat or are a type of wheat. Be aware that many ‘Wheat-free” foods are made from varieties of wheat such as kamut and spelt, but wheat-free does not mean gluten free. Tabouli is a salad usually made with bulgur wheat or couscous which are not gluten-free, but can also be made with guinoa which is gluten-free.
While the presence of gluten is evident in baked goods and pasta, it is often a hidden ingredient in many other items. Candy to include hard candy, chocolates and licorice may contain barley malt flavoring and or wheat flour. Flavored coffees and teas may also contain barley malt flavoring. Prepared meats may contain fillers made from wheat, and seasonings added may contain hydrolyzed wheat protein, wheat flour or wheat starch.
Alcholic beverages must also be considered. Unfortunately beer, ale and lagers contain the mixture of barley, hops, and yeast that are only fermented and not distilled like other spirits. The distillation process allows those with true celiac to imbibe.
Although learning to eliminate gluten from the diet can be very challenging, emphasis on the nutritional quality of the gluten-free diet is frequently overlooked. There are ten nutrients which have been found deficient in studies of individuals on the gluten-free diet. These include calories, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, cobalamin, folate, iron, calcium and fiber. Deficiencies of these nutrients can lead to anemia and bone deficiencies. The gluten free foods are fortified with the same nutrients added to gluten containing products, but versus switching over to gluten-free bread and cereal many opt to avoid. As a result, they bring on other problems not to mention a bad case of constipation from a lack of adequate fiber.
Decreased calorie intake is the primary cause for successful weight loss in this diet but it is the same cause for all other so-called fad diets. (Keep in mind that the gluten free and wheat free diet are not fad diets meant for weight loss but are medically required for those with specific nutritional issues and physician prescribed ) There is nothing wrong with eating wheat and other gluten containing foods for those who do not have a chronic autoimmune intestinal disorder or allergy. The thing to always question before embarking on any weight loss diet is if it requires avoidance of specific food items or food group. The avoidance of the item may cause more harm than good. Primary cause for successful weight loss is portion control. Eat the proper amount of all foods to make it balanced with nutrients and within the determined calorie level to assure a safe weight loss. Keep in mind that exercise plays a big part in weight loss as well.
Signature by Joanne Slyter, registered dietitian, in Westminster, CO