“Gluten-free” is a phrase that we often see stamped on multiple alimentary products in the supermarket: on the cereal box, ham package, frozen vegetables, chocolate desserts, etc. Automatically, our brain perceives the word “free” as something good, without knowing why exactly is this good or bad for us. And plenty of people buy gluten-free goods only because they suppose such foods do good to them. But are they right?
Let’s get started.
What is gluten?
According to the International Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is the general name for the proteins found in grains: wheat, rye, barley, triticale, and others. In fact, this is the substance that makes the dough hold together when you mix flour with a liquid.
However, gluten is not only found naturally in the environment, but this mixture of proteins is added to processed foods in order to keep their ingredients together (and hold the shape of the dietary product), as well as to improve texture, moisture retention, flavor, etc. As it is heat-stable and relatively cheap, it is an excellent option for the companies producing processed foods.
Is it bad to eat gluten?
Gluten is being digested in the body as every other dietary protein. Regular diet (with the presence of gluten) has many hidden benefits, which the media is not showing, because of the booming gluten-free trend in the recent years. There are a number of scientific studies conducted on this topic, however, they are not popular with the general public yet.
First of all, according to a research report published in the US National Library of Medicine, people who eat foods with natural gluten content tend to accumulate less heavy metals in their bodies through food sources. Such toxic substances can result in poisoning, cell and organ damage, allergies, rashes, digestive problems, and chronic headaches.
Another 2017 study of the Harvard Heart Association evidenced the fact that people who have adopted a gluten-free diet have less daily fiber intake, which has a direct relation to increased risk of diabetes type 2. As dietary fiber is key for the prevention of such a health condition, people who avoid eating gluten should at least supplement with fiber.
One other evidence about the healthy properties of gluten in your diet is presented by a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. This research shows that avoidance of gluten is associated with increased heart disease risks, and the daily consumption of grains decreases the risk of developing coronary health disease by 15%.
Of course, there are people who should follow gluten-free diet, because they are allergic to this protein. But more about the relation between Celiac disease and gluten you can find in our dedicated blog post.