by Angela Reed-Fox
Gluten is a protein found in some grains, it not tolerated by those with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.
In such people it can cause bloating, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, headaches, fatigue and skin eruptions among other symptoms.
Coeliac disease affects around 1% of the population and gluten intolerance a further 10%.
You'll see far more gluten-free options in the supermarket as the 'free-from' movement has really taken off.
Should I eat gluten-free?
If you have an intolerance to gluten or coeliac disease, then yes, you'll need to remove gluten from your diet. If you don't have either of these conditions then we'd advise not.
A mainstream gluten-free diet has been shown to make losing weight and maintaining that weight loss difficult. Why?
Low in fibre
Fibre's found in fruit and vegetables and in abundance in many grains. The flour used to make many gluten-free products (sch as tapioca flour) tends to be lower in fibre. Fibre is useful for different reasons:
High in carbohydrates
Starch is added to many gluten-free flours to make up for the lack of gluten. Excess carbs are stored as fat when not needed.
High-calorie, low satiety
High calories because of the starch - but because of the low fibre, many gluten-free products have a low satiety level, meaning you'll be hungry in no time, but you'll have consumed more calories than you need.
Low in important micro-nutrients
Unless fortified, manyo f the flours used in gluten-free products are low in iron, calcium and B vitamins.
Even though gluten-free alternatives are becoming more mainstream, because of the higher production costs associated with creating specialist products for a niche market, you'll be paying more for them than for a 'regular' food product. This specialist food is frequently far more than twice the price of the 'original'.
What should I do if I need to eat a gluten-free diet?
The principles of a healthy gluten-free diet are the same as for a 'regular' healthy diet. Try to avoid processed foods where possible, concentrate on wholefoods. Make sure you're eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day.