Welcome to the third in our “Eat Well” article series. Here Accredited Practising Dietitian and founder of The Naked Truth, Rachel Hawkins weighs in on that trending debate, can a gluten-free diet help you lose weight?
Thanks to the gluten-free health trend, gluten-free products are in demand more now than ever before. Whether you’re at the supermarket or your local café, gluten-free food and beverage options are readily available.
We know that following a gluten-free diet is essential for the medical treatment of Coeliac Disease (an autoimmune condition in which the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten), but what about everyone else? The word on the health food aisle is that some people believe that a gluten-free diet will help them lose weight… but is this true?
What is gluten?
• Gluten is the name given to a group of proteins called prolamins and glutelinins that are stored together with starch in the endosperm of grains (that’s the part of the grain we eat).
• Gluten is most commonly found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye, however is also present in hybrid grain varieties such as spelt and triticale.
• Gluten can also be found in more unsuspecting products such as deli meats, sauces, marinades, ready-made meals, alcohol, flavoured milks and confectionary items, to name a few.
• Gluten is well-known for its elastic properties which give structure to baked goods such as bread, cakes and biscuits.
So how does a gluten-free diet differ from a regular diet?
Research tells us that a gluten-free diet is typically based on a combination of foods naturally lacking gluten (examples include gluten-free grains, fruits and vegetables) and special products which have been formulated with gluten-free grains. Because the elastic properties of gluten are so hard to replicate, gluten-free products undergo significant food processing.
As a result of trying to replicate the properties of gluten, gluten-free products are typically higher in fat, sugar and calorie content, meaning that they are more likely to contribute to weight gain rather than weight loss.
In fact, studies indicate that people who follow a gluten-free diet are more likely to consume a high amount of packaged gluten-free products compared to wholefoods, which naturally lack gluten, due to the perception of having limited food choices.
Due to the fact that most gluten-free products are made with refined flour and/or starches, they are also low in fibre. This is unfavourable for weight loss, as foods that contain fibre promote satiety and keep us feeling fuller for longer.
Therefore, it can be argued that a gluten-free diet may actually increase the probability of consuming excess energy, resulting in weight gain.
So, can a gluten-free diet help you lose weight?
The question of whether a gluten-free diet will help you lose weight or not all comes down to the overall quality of your diet. If you consume a gluten-free diet that consists predominately of packaged and processed foods, which we know are typically high in sugar, fat and calories, then chances are that this will not bode favourably on your waist line.
However, if you eat a diet that is rich in naturally occurring gluten-free foods such as gluten-free wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, then there is no need to fear weight gain as a result of a gluten-free prognosis.
So, it’s decided. A gluten-free diet will not help you lose weight. It is, in fact, an inclusive and well-balanced diet that will assist in weight loss. A gluten-free diet presents both practical and nutritional challenges to those who must follow it. Accordingly a gluten-free diet should only be followed by people who have a clinically diagnosed allergy or intolerance to gluten.
Gluten-free recipes to try
Avocado Cabbage Salad – Australian Avocados
Nectarine and Apricot Coconut Chia Puddings – Summer Stonefruit
This feature contains a mix of content from myfoodbook third party content partners and our own opinions.
Part of this feature contains content written by the author which first appeared on www.noshable.org