Gluten free this and gluten free that, seems to be all the rage right now. But what in the world does that even mean to be "gluten free?" Why is it so popular right now? Is it really necessary? Let's break down what science says, what society says, and give a personal story as well.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a group of proteins found in starches. It is a natural binding agent that leaves the final product after cooking a doughy texture. It is found naturally in soy and wheat products. Foods consisting of foods include (but are not limited to): breads, pasta, pastries, cereals, cakes, donuts, oats, just to name a few.
What society says
We all know somebody who is on a "gluten free" diet. These diets attempt to eliminate all the aforementioned foods that contain the gluten germ. But why do so many people suddenly want to cut gluten from their diet? Has it always been this way and it's just now coming to light?
There are several reasons why people eliminate gluten from their diet. The first is a complete fallacy given to us by the talking heads on television (I call it the Dr. Oz syndrome). Eliminating gluten will help you lose weight..... Who has heard this? Ok lets dissect this. As we know, gluten is found in wheat and grain products. Wheat and grain products are mainly comprised of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. So the person who eliminates gluten from their diet, and doesn't replace the calories taken away when eliminating the carbohydrates, is losing weight due to a caloric deficit, NOT the gluten.
Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let's talk the real issue here. Gluten sensitivity IS a real thing. It's just not as prominent as credited. Gluten is a protein sticky in nature, and is difficult for the digestive system to break down. Think of it like chewing gum. The body's response if it cannot break down the gluten is to inflame which can leads to signs including
-Frequent bathroom trips
-Redness in the skin
just to name a few.
In short, gluten is not "bad for you" unless your body has a sensitivity or intolerance. Gluten does NOT make you gain body fat. Gluten CAN make you retain fluids IF a sensitivity is in place. So what do you do? If you can tolerate gluten without any adverse affects, then by golly you eat up! But if you swell up like a blowfish, have digestion problems, or break out after a gluten encounter, simply stay away or eat in low moderation.