If you haven't heard of the diet that's been sweeping the nation you may have been hiding under a very large rock. Pizza chains are proclaiming in a large voice to exclude it from their bread bases and beers. Celebrity's like Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham and Miley Cyrus are attributing their flat stomachs and clear minds to the exclusion of it. Novak Djokovic credits his stellar 2011 season down to its withdrawal. So, can the protein called gluten really inspire 2.6 million homes in the UK to drop it from their diets? We will look at the facts and what it might mean for you.
Humans have been eating gluten for around 10,000 years. Worldwide, wheat makes up one-fifth of all food eaten and is the number-one source of protein in developing countries. There are many things to consider before dropping this protein from our lives. With all the ailments and illnesses associated with gluten, have we been getting it wrong for so long? Or maybe we’re being fuelled along by the gluten-free trend.
Firstly let’s not confuse Coeliac, which is a serious autoimmune disease, with a food allergy or intolerance to gluten. Or to give it it's full title - 'non-coeliac gluten sensitivity'. Gluten intolerance occurs when a person's immune system responds abnormally as the gluten is broken down in the digestive system. Uncomfortable symptoms can include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue, bloating and heartburn.
To embrace a gluten-free diet you will need to throw out all your bread and baked goods, pizza, beer, French fries, pasta, soups, sauces as well as some vitamins, supplements and medications. You will then need to embrace natural products: fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. Wheat, rye, and barley, which all contain gluten, should be replaced with the grains quinoa, corn, rice and oats.
Don't be daunted though, it really has never been easier to be gluten-free. You don't even have to go to a Health food shop as supermarkets have responded to the demand by filling their shelves with many gluten-free products including: flours, breads, pasta, sauces and cookies. “Gluten-free” is a claim you see on many items like crisps and hummus – foods that normally don’t contain gluten. Are they jumping on the bandwagon? Everyone it seems wants a slice of THE biggest trend in the food world. Packaged Facts, a market research group, forecasts that the gluten-free market in the UK is expected to grow to £1.62 billion by 2019.
The converted enjoy better digestion and gastrointestinal function, healthy weight loss, increased energy, lower cholesterol and a stronger immune system.. However, ditching gluten often means adding extra sugar and fat to your diet. Gluten adds oomph to foods. It gives dough its elastic texture and foods like cereal and breads their chewy quality. Removing it from food, you might find that extra fat, sugar or sodium have been added to compensate for the lack of taste. For example, an average cookie contains 70 calories - a gluten-free one around 210!
Possibly the way to enjoy the health benefits of excluding gluten without the negatives is to cook meals from scratch thus reducing the total intake of processed foods. Delicious, nutritious and sustaining dishes can be created. It's essentially a low-carb, high protein diet. Use a variety of whole grains such as amaranth, millet and teff. Stick to naturally gluten-free whole foods - fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, most dairy, legumes, grains and nuts. Get inspired - your favourite chef will most certainly be producing recipes for you to quickly become adept at losing gluten and maintaining a balanced diet.
The UK has certainly been guilty of being 'wheat-heavy'. We have been eating cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner for many years. Our bellies are spreading and our guts are truly irritated by the constant avalanche of wheat. By removing one thing from your diet, for the educated, it can improve your health and open up a whole host of other foods. That's got to be good – try it!