Why is everyone going gluten-free?

These days, gluten-free eating is all the rage. But do you really need to give it up?

Photo by Istockphoto

Photo by Istockphoto

Right now, it seems everyone’s going gluten-free. From Chelsea Clinton’s request for a wheat-free wedding cake to proclamations from Gwyneth Paltrow about eliminating gluten, the wheat protein is getting a bad rap. But gluten-free isn’t for everybody. Here’s what you need to know.

The gluten-celiac connection
If you have celiac disease, your body thinks that gluten is toxic, and it goes into attack mode. For celiacs, gluten causes damage to the small intestines and prevents the body from fully absorbing food nutrients. If wheat causes you any discomfort and you feel like you might have celiac, get your doctor to test you immediately. When untreated, the disease can lead to malnutrition, certain cancers, osteoporosis and neurological issues.

The health and weight debate
Attention non-celiacs: A gluten-free diet might encourage you to eat more fruits, veggies and lean protein, and help you cut back on high-calorie processed foods. But ditching grains can also mean missing out on essential nutrients, like fibre, iron, zinc and vitamin B. Plus, gluten-free products often rely on extra fat and sugar to improve their taste.

Bottom Line: Unless you have celiac disease or have a proven sensitivity, there’s no scientific support for cutting gluten from your diet. But if you think it makes you feel better, there’s nothing wrong with limiting your gluten intake.

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