Gluten-free foods have become commonplace in grocery stores, restaurants and cookbooks.
For those who suffer from celiac disease, this is huge, because there are now so many options to choose from. And for those who feel extraordinary benefits from decreasing gluten because of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, inflammation or their own personal nutrition journey, living a gluten-free life is quite doable.
On the flip side, gluten-free living has become quite the trend. People are unnecessarily cutting out a lot of essential foods from their diet, spending a lot of money on other foods, living in extreme ways and potentially causing more harm than good. When deciding to follow a gluten-free diet, it is important to ask, "Why am I doing this?" and "What is the best way for me to live gluten-free based on my needs?"
Here's some of the common mistakes many people make when they decide to go gluten free.
Assuming a gluten-free diet is a healthier diet
Many people start a gluten-free diet because they think it's healthier. They buy all the gluten-free products in the markets, thinking these products are a healthier choice solely because they're gluten-free. They're thrilled with all the gluten-free cookies, cakes, treats, and sweets out there because they are shopping with one rule: "Buy gluten-free."
Avoiding gluten does not necessarily guarantee improved health! When food manufacturers remove the gluten, they usually add a lot of other ingredients and fillers - all gluten-free, mind you - to make the food tasty. A gluten-free cookie is still a cookie, and if it's filled with dozens of processed ingredients to improve texture, it might be unhealthier than a "normal" cookie. Read the labels and take some time to decide what other rules you want to add to your plan so it will help you reach your goals.
Not paying attention to how your body feels
Many people start eating gluten-free hoping it will fix their inflammation and other ailments, but they're not considering the bigger picture. Often, there are a multitude of things involved with inflammation, and it requires some mindfulness and awareness to get wise to the true symptoms and triggers.
Often, people will go on a gluten-free diet and feel some relief, but is it because of the gluten or is it because they are suddenly not eating cake every night? Or is it because they also started avoiding some other ingredients?
Are you truly feeling better? It's easy to convince yourself that the gluten-free diet is making you feel better, but in fact you still have symptoms. Take some time to examine how your body feels - whether it be headaches, digestive issues, joint pain, a skin rash or inflammation, and start monitoring. If you pay attention, you can feel confident that the effort you are putting into improving your health is working.
Conflating a gluten-free diet with a low-carb or clean eating diet
Many people go gluten-free and are convinced it's the best plan for them because they lose weight, gain energy and feel better. Was eliminating gluten truly the catalyst to improved health? Or was it cutting out all the processed wheat, such as crackers, sugary cereal, pastries and more? A gluten-free diet and a low-carb diet are two very different things. If you are trying to lose weight, going gluten-free may not be necessary, but avoiding processed carbohydrates and sweets, and increasing your vegetables, proteins and plant fats may be the best choice.
It's easy to jump on the latest fad. Make sure you read food labels, pay attention to your body and be sure you are eating fresh and healthy foods.