Claire Tastes is pleased to announce a fun new partnership with Melissa Moser, Registered Dietitian and long-time friend! I am so excited to work with a real expert in dieting, nutrition, and living a balanced and active life! Feel free to comment here with any questions you have for Melissa, and find out more about her by visiting her Nutrition page here on the blog!
What You Should Know About Gluten
When I tell people I’m a dietitian, they usually jump at the opportunity to ask me their questions about the latest nutrition craze. It seems that for the last year or two, gluten-free diets have been on the top of that list. Even my Italian grandmother, who cooks the most delicious pasta dishes in the world (sorry, Claire!), was considering giving up gluten after she heard about it on Dr. Oz!
So, what do I tell people when they ask me whether or not they should go gluten-free? Well, I’m not the type of dietitian who likes to tell people exactly what to eat – or not eat, so instead I guide them through a series of questions to help them come to their own, informed conclusion. If this is a lifestyle you’re considering, or just want to know more about, read through my questions and their answers:
Do you know what gluten is?
Recently, Jimmy Kimmel sent a camera crew out to the streets of LA to ask self-declared gluten-free dieters the question “What is gluten?” and they came up with some pretty comical answers. Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, and barley, and it gives bread its chewy texture. It’s believed that these grains became a major part of humans’ diets about 1200 years ago, and some make the argument that this has not been enough time for our bodies to adapt to properly digest it.
What are your reasons for wanting to avoid gluten?
There are plenty of legitimate arguments for following a gluten-free diet, but at least as many poorly-informed ones. People who are diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called Celiac Disease need to omit gluten because it causes their body to attack and damage the surface of their own intestines, leading to serious consequences. Recent research has investigated a separate condition called gluten sensitivity. For people with gluten sensitivity, removing gluten from the diet can help to resolve certain intestinal symptoms like abdominal pain and diarrhea, as well as systemic symptoms like joint pain, headache, and anemia. If you’re not experiencing these types of symptoms, the gluten-free diet is not the magic answer to give you more energy or a sense of well-being. And if you’re considering a gluten-free diet because you want to lose weight, please understand this diet doesn’t guarantee weight loss, which brings me to my next question…
What will you eat if you omit gluten?
Deciding what you will eat is even more important than deciding what you won’t eat. A gluten-free diet will many unhealthy, processed snack foods, but because of the increasing demand for gluten-free items, manufacturers have made it possible to have your [gluten-free] cake and eat it too! Replacing gluten-containing foods with alternative whole grains like quinoa and brown rice – or better yet, adding more vegetables or fruits to the diet – can make for a very healthy gluten-free diet! However, filling the gluten void with gluten-free junk won’t likely do you any good.
So here’s my bottom line:
If you’re considering a gluten-free diet, think carefully about your reasoning. Plan what types of food you will eat, and figure out if this is a reasonable lifestyle for you. Whether you decide to keep gluten in your diet or not, aim to eat more nutrient-dense foods (like vegetables) and fewer nutrient-poor foods (like cakes and chips). And remember, there are no “magic” diets to boost your energy and make you look years younger. My suggestion for that is a well-balanced diet based on common sense, a good night’s rest, and a bit of time spent walking/running/playing every day!