In a previous post, (March 28) I talked about how gluten-free food isn’t necessarily healthier (unless you are truly gluten intolerant or have celiac disease.) But ironically, I believe many people have actually improved their diets by avoiding gluten.
What? Am I talking out of both sides of my mouth? ? ?
Americans eat a terrible diet. That’s why many of us refer to it as the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). In fact, it is so terrible that approximately 62% of our calories come from processed foods. A large percentage of this is just a mixture of white flour, white sugar, and fat — with various flavorings, preservatives, artificial sugars and colors added. This can hardly even be considered food. It’s pretty amazing that our bodies are able to operate as well as they do, for as long as they do, when we put this sort of junk in them routinely.
So here is where the gluten-free craze has actually made a positive difference in many people’s diets: If you remove all the processed foods that have flour in them, (which is a huge variety of junk food) and replace those foods with any sort of whole food, you’ve made a huge improvement in your diet! So when people “give up gluten” they are really giving up a lot of junk food. So it’s no wonder they start feeling better!
The irony, though, is that in most cases, it wasn’t the gluten in the flour that was the problem with those donuts, cakes, cookies, Wonder bread, pastries, and crackers. It was the refined white flour, sugar, fat, and chemicals!
Now let’s just suppose that you decided to eat a healthy diet that wasn’t necessarily gluten free. When you removed the 62% of processed foods, you’d have eliminated all that white flour, sugar, fat, and chemicals and replaced them with whole plant foods. You might include a slice of whole wheat bread or some whole wheat pasta once in awhile — so it’s not gluten free! What do you think would happen? Don’t you think you’d feel better then, too?
Then, if you take it the next step and remove the 25% of our calories that come from foods of animal origin — meats, (including fish, which is the meat of a fish), dairy products, and eggs — and replace those with whole plant foods as well, you’d have a tremendously healthy diet! And if you included a little whole wheat bread, it would still be a tremendously healthy diet.
So when we build our diets around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, with a few nuts and seeds added, our bodies thrive because we are nourishing them wonderfully well. Taking out the wheat, barley and rye because they contain gluten will only improve this diet for the people who really are gluten intolerant — but that is a small percentage of people.
For most people, the great results obtained when those eating the S.A.D. go “gluten free” are achieved because they have cut way back on the amount of junk food. So if that is your motivation for cutting out junk food, then I say “go for it!” Whatever it takes!
Now if someone would just start a craze for eliminating animal products, we’d have it made. I guess it’s not enough that it is loaded with cholesterol, animal fat, (promoting cardiovascular disease) IGF1( which promotes cancer), animal protein (which contributes to kidney and liver disease and cancer) and bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses.
I’ve been a bit tongue-in-cheek in this post, but seriously -- when we just choose a diet of whole, unprocessed plant foods, we are supporting our bodies in achieving wonderful health, and attaining and maintaining a healthy weight. If you do this and still have some distress when you eat whole grains containing gluten, then by all means, don’t eat them! But I think it is worth being conscious of the overall content of our diet before we start blaming all our ills on gluten.
Delisa is a plant-based nutrition and cooking instructor in Alaska. She believes that we are designed to be slim and healthy.