What's the biggest health "fad" right now? We hear about it everywhere probably because so many celebrities are following it... What is it? A gluten-free diet. Gluten-free foods have been hiding in the health food areas of most grocery stores for years but this sudden spike in sales has been bringing more and more potential vendors to the world of gluten-free.
Gluten is a protein-carbohydrate mixture that is contained in wheat, oats, barley and rye. Unless you have Celiac disease, IBD (Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis), or have a sensitivity or a true allergy to gluten, there is no reason not to eat it. However, the problem is actually two-fold: first off, North Americans consume way too much of it; secondly, the processing of wheat, oats, etc. is problematic and can lead to other health concerns. What I have learned is that some diseases come from inflammation. If we can lower and perhaps get rid of the body's inflammation we can help prevent or discourage certain diseases. When a portion of the whole wheat is taken out and the remainder is processed into white flour and consumed this can lead to inflammation in the body. Try this test - eliminate all white foods (except for cauliflower of course!) from your diet for 7-14 days and see how you feel. This would mean all white flour, white pasta, white rice, any color of sugar and anything processed (meaning it doesn't "remember" where it came from). Even after only 4 to 5 days you may begin to experience things like less bloating, more energy and even less anxiety or depression.
Now, I'm not saying that you should follow a gluten-free diet... far from it. Wheat and grains have been around and consumed by people for thousands and thousands of years. Grains are consumed without problems by most of the wold's population, are very versatile and are considered the "staff of life", a term often given to breads. Although most grains are not a complete protein, paired with beans, a nut butter, or other sources of protein, they make a great meal. Whole grains provide fiber (very important to keep us regular!), most of the B vitamins and energy. Gluten-free usually means lower fiber... check out the package of any gluten-free foods and be wary of anything low in fiber. Brown rice, which is a staple in my house, contains about 2 grams of fiber per serving as opposed to whole wheat which can vary, depending on the brand, between 4-6 grams per serving. White rice, on the other hand, contains between .1 to .4 grams of fiber per serving! Not good.
What is all comes down to is this: If a food makes you feel bad, don't eat it. Some signs would include headaches, brain fog, tiredness, achiness, irritability. If you don't experience any negative side effects a good rule of thumb is to eat a variety of whole grains - both those that include gluten (like wheat, oats, barley and rye) as well as gluten-free choices such as brown rice, amaranth, quinoa and corn. A whole grain that I absolutely love is spelt. Spelt is a cereal grain in the wheat family that has been cultivated for thousands of years. It contains a small amount of gluten which is why it can be a versatile replacement for wheat in recipes. Instead of using wheat flour I often replace it completely with spelt flour and it tastes delicious! Enjoy!