Is a gluten-free diet really healthier for us?
I’ve been asked often if a gluten-free diet is healthier for someone who isn’t gluten intolerant. Meaning, does everyone gain something from going gluten-free, or just those with a sensitivity or allergy (Celiac)? This is a tough one because it really comes down to how you treat the gluten-free lifestyle. If you’re simply replacing your gluten-ful products with their gluten-free counterparts, than my answer is NO, it’s not a healthier diet.
If however, you take this as a chance to get back to basics, and explore the many amazing foods that are available which don’t come processed and pre-packaged, you’re absolutely on your way to a healthier lifestyle. I have reversed some pretty scary health issues by removing grains and dairy from my diet, and I have talked to countless other folks who have as well. If you follow the Primal or Paleo movements, you know that there are medical professionals who share stories of patients who have reversed diabetes, lost weight, reduced anxiety and depression, overcome fatigue, balanced blood pressure levels, stabilized thyroid functions and more.
While I avoid almost all packaged foods, I completely understand the need for having something quick and easy on-hand for those moments when hunger pangs strike. We all know what it feels like to have your sugar levels go crazy; in fact, we joke that our son is like the Snickers commercials – he’s just not himself when he’s hungry!
But let’s face it, the gluten-free versions of bread, muffins, cookies, crackers and the like are often made from rice grains, potato starch, sugar and/or HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) which can wreak havoc on our digestive tracts and our blood sugar levels. So unfortunately, the gluten-free stuff you’re eating now might not be any better for you, which is why it’s important to not over-due these foods (if at all).
So here are some tips for keeping it simple when you’re gluten (and grain) free.
First, focus on nature’s foods. Fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds and whatever protein sources you like. By cutting back on starchy carbs, you will naturally avoid the sugar spikes they cause and help your body to aid in easier digestion by focusing on foods which it was naturally designed to eat.
Second, be prepared. Yep, this lifestyle requires a bit more prep work than you’re used to, and while you can still enjoy the occasional gluten-free snacks, it’s best not to count on them. We make our lunches the night before, prep our meals on Sunday for the week, pre-cook what we can, go to the grocery store often so our food is fresh and our supplies are full, and share recipes with friends and family who are on the same path so we can keep things interesting !
Here are some of the fresh snacks I keep on hand every day (had to upgrade my purse a bit to accommodate all our snacks, but it’s totally worth it): fresh sliced fruit, grapes, berries, nuts, seeds and trail mixes (just watch that the ingredients are gluten-free). Some of the brands we love are Thunderbird Energetica bars, Larabars, Happy Hemp seeds and Kind Life snack kits.
And remember, it will take some time for your palette to adjust to the difference in appreciating naturally sweetened foods from artificially sweetened ones. There’s a big difference, and it will take a little while for both the cravings to stop, and for you to appreciate healthier foods.
Third, be kind to yourself. This whole journey will take some time to get used to, and you will have moments where you feel stronger than others. If you fall off the wagon into a glutenous cupcake, just get back up again when you’re done, and get back on track. if you’re intolerant or allergic, that misstep will set you back a week or two from the amazing improvements you had enjoyed, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get back to feeling great again. And if you’re focused on a gluten-free diet because you just feel better when you avoid processed foods, then the same will be true of your progress, though you won’t feel nearly as bad as the allergic folks will from a set back.
So what do you think? Are you feeling better since going gluten-free? I’d love to hear your stories, what works for you, or even if you gave up and went back to gluten. No judgements – we can always take away something from other people’s journeys, so please share below!