Is gluten bad for me?

Let’s just lay it all out on the table – A Gluten-Free diet is not healthier nor accelerates weight loss. Let’s rewind a minute and understand the facts about gluten.

GF Flour
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, triticale (hybrid of wheat and rye) and any products derived from these grains. We also know that protein is good for maintaining muscles and for curbing hunger. So is gluten really so bad?

Why would we eliminate gluten?

To eliminate gluten from the diet by commencing a gluten-free (GF) diet is only recommended for those with Coeliac Disease (CD). A disease whereby the body attacks both gluten and the person’s intestinal wall – also known as an autoimmune response. By eliminating gluten allows for their intestines, the finger like projections in particular on their intestines, to heal and work normally at absorbing nutrients. If those with CD do not continue a lifelong GF diet nutrient deficiency will occur and can lead to anemia, osteoporosis and more.

Gluten Containing Foods
Wheat
Rye
Barley
TriticaleWhat about oats?
The Australian Food Standards Code does not classify oats as gluten free. Oats are a controversial topic as they are gliadin free, the main contributor to the body’s inflammatory response, not gluten free. However, as oats are a rotational crop with wheat they can be contaminated with gluten. Pure oats are oats that are not rotated with wheat also known as ‘wheat free oats’. Those with CD require monitoring by their doctor if they do consume oats.
Gluten Free Foods – these are naturally GF
Milk & Dairy
Fruit & Vegetables
Pulses – legumes, beans, nuts & seeds. Some nuts are dusted in wheat so it is important to check if the nuts are raw or have been processed.
Meat unprocessed – beef, chicken, fish
Eggs
Maize/Corn, Rice, Soy, Buckwheat, Millet, Sorghum, Tapioca, Quinoa, Arrowroot, Amaranth

Why GF diets won’t help you with weight loss and more:
1.
GF products contain more sugar and fat than their gluten alternative (AIS Sports Nutrition, 2009). The example below shows the GF alternative to have double the amount of fat and has slightly higher sugar content, per 100 grams. Standard Burgen bread has more protein and dietary fibre which is more satiating meaning it keeps you fuller for longer and keeps your bowels ticking over nicely.

Gluten-Free Burgen

Soy-Lin (100g)

Burgen Soy-Lin (100g)
Energy (kJ) 1110 1010
Protein (g) 8.6 14.4
Total Fat (g) 8.4 4.8
      Saturated Fat (g) 0.8 0.8
Carbohydrate (g) 36.1 31.2
      Sugar (g) 5 3.1
Sodium (mg) 420 446
Dietary Fibre (g) 4.6 7.1
  1. GF products are higher GI! Glycaemic Index (GI) is a ranking between zero and 100 given to foods describing the rate your body digests and absorbs carbohydrate (sugar) into your blood (Dietitians Association of Australia, 2016). The benefits of choosing lower GI products is that they keep you fuller for longer and may reduce sugar cravings due to the steady release of sugar into your blood. Lower GI products are those with a rating of less than 55 (Dietitians Association of Australia, 2016).
  2. It’s expensive! Is it really worth the addition cost to the grocery or restaurant bill if you do not have coeliac disease?
  3. It’s antisocial! It makes life harder when socialising as your friends have to cook alternatives for you. At restaurants, it also limits your options.

 The pros and cons of the Gluten-Free Diet

Pros Cons
  • Usually encourages more consumption of whole foods including fruit and vegetables and less processed foods
  • Increases awareness about product ingredients
  • Prevents inflammation of the intestine for those with Coeliac Disease
  • Expensive
  • Higher GI products
  • Inconvenient
  • Restricts dietary choices and enjoyment of food
  • Life-long for those with Coeliac Disease

But bread makes me bloated?

bloating

Some individuals eliminate bread, whole grains and cereals or gluten containing products as they believe it causes bloating and weight gain. In fact the whole grains and cereal food group is a good source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals and can help protect you against excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease (NHMRC, 2013). The Australian Guideline to Healthy Eating recommends Women aged 19-50 years should consume 6 servings of grain foods every day.

Bloating may be a result of gluten intolerance however you should speak to your doctor or Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) before deciding to eliminate gluten from the diet. Other symptoms commonly experienced by those with CD are headaches and stomach cramps although some individuals present with no symptoms.

Overeating, consuming gas-producing foods including beans, legumes and onions or chewing gum are other causes of bloating. Before jumping to the conclusion that gluten or bread is the cause of your discomfort, speak with your doctor or an APD today. Determining if you have CD requires the diagnosis of a Gastroenterologist who will perform a colonoscopy and take a small sample from your intestines. CD is not a disease that you can diagnose by a blood test or purely through symptoms.

Lastly, remember that gluten is not the devil’s nectar. Enjoy it!  If you are concerned or experiencing symptoms after consuming gluten foods speak to your doctor or dietitian today. For more information visit Coeliac Australia coeliac.org.au or purchase Snr dietitian and specialise in Coeliac Disease – Kim Faulkner-Hogg’s Coeliac Disease & the GF Diet Handbook at http://food4me.net.au/shop/

Happy Fact Finding!

Megan Roberts (Dietitian – APD)

2012-01-27-17-39-42

Reference List:
AIS SPORTS NUTRITION. 2009. Gluten-Free Diets [Online]. Available: http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/factsheets/special_diets/gluten-free_diets [Accessed 19 Feb 2016].
DIETITIANS ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA. 2016. Glycaemic Index [Online]. Available: http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/glycaemic-index/ [Accessed 19 Feb 2016].
NATIONAL HEALTH AND MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL 2013. Eat for Health Australian Dietary Guidelines: Summary. In: DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND AGEING (ed.). Canberra: Australian Government.

 

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