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Does it matter if you eat gluten free?

Does it matter if you eat gluten free?

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Of late, I have been noting much fuss about the increase in people following a gluten free diet, along with the fact that many may be doing so unnecessarily.

So what is the go with gluten? Gluten is a type of protein that is not 'bad' for you, unless you either have Coeliac disease, where no amount of gluten is tolerable, or a gluten sensitivity, where a small amount is tolerable (though much of the research is now indicating that this may be wheat, rather than gluten, sensitivity). Some of the difficulties with following a gluten free diet include:

1. Eating meals away from home, particularly if traveling overseas can be challenging. That said, it is not impossible, and in recent years has become much easier with improved knowledge and awareness if the requirement of gluten free options.

2. Some gluten free products do not have the fibre, or other nutritional equivalent of their gluten containing counterparts.

3. There is often a misconception that gluten free equals healthy. Not the case - the product may still be loaded with sugar, fat or salt. Many processed GF products are particularly unhealthy.

4. It can be very pricey. Specialty gluten free options often cost more.

5. It may not taste as good. So regularly clients tell me how much they hate gluten free bread or wraps. They are often just not the same as the alternative. That said, naturally gluten free choices, such as quinoa, brown rice or buckwheat pancakes are fabulous!

But, does it matter if someone chooses to eat a gluten free diet if they don't medically need to?

From my perspective, it is an individual's choice, and doesn't really matter, as long as the gluten free options are nutritionally equivalent, or superior to what they are replacing. I don't recommend highly processed, high fat or sugar options of gluten containing foods. The same goes for gluten free options. Making sensible choices, regardless of gluten content is the best way to go.

Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
This blog focuses on diet & nutrition generally and diet & nutrition in relation to the treatment of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases.
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