Improve Your General Health with a Gluten-Free Diet - dummies

Improve Your General Health with a Gluten-Free Diet

By Nancy McEachern

Entire grocery aisles are dedicated to foods designated gluten-free, so eliminating gluten from your diet must be a smart move, right? Otherwise, why would anyone give up the “normal” version of so many favorite foods — and fork over a bunch more money on the alternative version in most cases — if something really magical weren’t packed in those gluten-free foods?

Going gluten-free can help you make better food choices, and it can be part of a plan to lose weight, but cutting out gluten isn’t an automatic ticket to good health.

Make better food choices on a gluten-free diet

Maybe you’ve been paying attention to the buzz about gluten-free foods and have decided to cut the gluten in an attempt to live a healthier lifestyle. Recent surveys show that most people believe that if a product is marked gluten-free, it’s healthier than its gluten-filled counterpart. But this isn’t necessarily true.

Some gluten-free foods are full of empty calories or contain a higher fat or sugar content in order to make up for unusual flavors or textures. There are good and bad gluten-free foods, just like regular food; however, you can certainly make your diet healthier while eating strictly gluten-free.

Think about all the processed foods you eat in just one day as a student away from Mom and Dad’s home cooking. You may have cereal or toast for breakfast and enjoy some cookies for snacks. Maybe you have two slices of bread on your sandwich with sliced deli meat, or perhaps you have a couple of slices of pizza.

Dinner may be a frozen meal or restaurant takeout, and then you have chips or crackers for a late-night snack. Even if you eat only a couple of those things and add in salads, fruit, and vegetables, you’ve still consumed tons of processed food and empty calories in a day.

Now just imagine that you go through that list and cross off every processed food. Most of it contains gluten, anyway. If you fill your menu with the naturally gluten-free foods — such as fresh lean proteins, high-fiber whole grains, and fruits and veggies — you’ll most certainly be eating better.

And if you combine the non-gluten, minimally processed way of eating with the exercise and portion control that’s part of all health and fitness guidelines, you’ve got yourself a very healthy way of living.

Simply cutting out gluten-filled junk food and replacing it with gluten-free junk food will not improve your health. Your gluten-free food choices must be deliberate.

Lose weight by going gluten-free

When you hear the word diet, you probably automatically think weight loss, and maybe that’s why you’re looking into going gluten-free. But going gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re trying to lose weight or that you will lose weight. In fact, the gluten-free diet isn’t designed to help people lose weight.

Still, going gluten-free can be part of a weight-loss plan. And programs that allow you to choose your own food, such as Weight Watchers and the South Beach Diet, can work along with eating gluten-free.

Here are some specific ways to meet your health goals on a gluten-free diet:

  • Choose mostly naturally gluten-free foods.

  • Choose high-fiber, minimally processed foods.

  • Choose lower-calorie foods and smaller portions.

  • Choose lower-glycemic foods

  • Exercise more.

An online search can yield some good weight-loss websites that are specifically designed to work with gluten-free diets.