Will Gluten-Free Help Me Win?

 Today’s contribution is by Good Measure Meals’ Sarah Shanahan MS, RDN, LD  A 2013 Mintel survey reveled 65% percent of people opt for gluten-free foods because they believe gluten-free foods are “healthier”. Twenty seven percent go gluten-free to lose weight. The real question is, will going gluten-free help you win FitTrip? What is gluten? Gluten is protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale, and it provides shape and texture. Up to 7% of Americans need to avoid gluten (1% have celiac disease and the other 6% possibly have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity). In recent years though, gluten has been blamed for inflammation, bloating, weight gain, infection, and lethargy.  But could a tiny protein really have that much power?  Do the other 93% of us need to be gluten-free? Does gluten make you gain weight? Instead of helping weight loss, research has shown that gluten avoidance is more often associated with weight gain. Just because something is gluten-free does not make it low-calorie. Gluten-free recipes need a wheat substitute. Almond flour is a common one, and although almonds are a great source of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, one cup of almond flour has 640 calories and 56 grams. In comparison, one cup of whole-wheat flour only has 408 calories and 3 grams of fat.  Does gluten cause bloating? Fiber, not gluten, is typically the culprit that makes you feel bloated. Fiber typically only causes bloating if you aren’t drinking enough water to move it through your system, or you aren’t eating enough of it. Fiber is crucial for gut health and digestion and adequate intakes are linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Only 13% of American adults eat the recommended 3 – 4 daily servings of veggies and 25% eat the recommended 2 ½ – 3 daily servings of fruits. Instead of avoiding gluten, focus on bulking up your fiber by eating more plants. And, don’t forget the fluids! So, for the other 93%, it turns out there is no research to support going gluten-free. Instead of avoiding gluten, focus on a balanced diet that incorporates fiber-rich plants (including grains) for energy, satiety, and enjoyment of food during FitTrip. And that just might make you win.