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Going gluten-free the healthy way

If gluten-free is what you want, walk away from the immortal boxes and towards the perishable foods.

If gluten-free is what you want, walk away from the immortal boxes and towards the perishable foods.  

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Look out for certain warning signs when you decide to go gluten-free writes Raj Ganpath

“Going gluten-free” is a cool thing to do today. You can see people announce their gluten-free streak on Facebook and you can spot that sense of pride when a friend exclaims “Oh, I’m not eating gluten,” at the dinner table. Some of you reading this may have even half-heard incomplete information to come up with your own half-baked thoughts on the subject. Today, I’ll very quickly clear things up for you. 

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley. It provides elasticity to dough helping it rise and bind while cooking and is a critical ingredient in baking and other forms of bread making. Just like how some of us are allergic to milk, brinjal, peanuts etc., a lot of us are allergic to gluten. While I don’t have the luxury of space to explain the biochemistry behind this, I’ll say that if you are allergic to gluten, the repercussions of consuming gluten may range from just a slight rash or acid reflux to, in some extreme cases, death. I know it sounds dangerous but that’s just because I used the word death. Even a peanut allergy could cause death in extreme cases.  

But is gluten really universally bad? Should you give up gluten? Will going gluten-free help you lose weight? Well, it depends. If you are allergic to gluten then, like any sane person would, you need to make some gluten-related changes to your food life. Like most things, gluten allergy is dose dependent. If you are severely allergic you may need to stay away from gluten for a very long time. But if you are mildly allergic to gluten then all you need to do is to limit and optimize your consumption of products containing gluten. That’s pretty much all there is to it. 

That said, there is a growing body of evidence that says everyone is allergic to gluten at some level. While the truth behind the claim is yet to be proven on human subjects, food manufacturers and sellers have jumped on the possibility of another gold mine. This is why you see gluten-free products lining the shelves of health and even grocery stores today and gluten-free options available in restaurants. While the availability of gluten-free options is a wonderful development, especially for people allergic to gluten, there are some warning signs too. 

The first thing you want to remember is that “gluten-free” means that the food is free of gluten. It doesn’t mean that it is healthful. For example, milk chocolate and potato chips are gluten free but in no way healthful. Gluten-free pizza is not better for you than a regular pizza. 

Secondly, the majority of gluten-free products are those that replace junk food in your life. Cake mixes, flour, cookies, pizza etc are what are mostly marketed and sold under the gluten-free label. So make sure you don’t ending up eating more sugar in the name of being gluten-free.

Thirdly, if gluten-free is what you want to be, why not do just that? Eat only things that don’t contain gluten. Natural foods (i.e foods that don’t carry a brand name) are filled gluten-free options. All fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, lentils, legumes and rice are gluten-free and most south Indian traditional foods from rice, daal and rasam to avial, poriyal and payasam are gluten-free and are perfectly suitable as long term food choices. 

My advice: if gluten-free is what you want, walk away from the immortal boxes and towards the perishable foods. 

Noted for his passionate, no-nonsense approach to healthy living, coach Raj Ganpath is a fitness and nutrition expert and entrepreneur.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 12:55:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/fitness/going-glutenfree-the-healthy-way/article6228156.ece

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