Should You Go Gluten-Free?

The health food industry seems to operate in waves. Every so often a different food or substance is vilified. Suddenly, it becomes a badge of honor for foods to be labeled as free of it. Once it was fat, then carbs became the target. Right now, gluten seems to be the thing to avoid. A brief stroll down any grocery store aisle will show the growing prevalence of gluten-free foods. In fact, the gluten-free industry is now worth about $7 billion dollars per year.

Originally, however, the gluten-free diet was designed to help the one percent of the population suffering from celiac disease, an auto-immune condition triggered by the wheat protein. Now gluten-free diets are used to treat just about every symptom and are even said to encourage weight-loss and athletic performance. The Garmin-Transitions pro-cycling team follows a gluten-free diet while racing in an effort to reduce inflammation and easy digestion.

Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance and Wheat Allergies

There is a solid medical basis for opting out of gluten.

As mentioned, celiac disease is the chief reason people traditionally dropped the protein, found in wheat, barley and rye. When someone with celiac disease eats or, in some cases, uses a product containing gluten, their immune system misfires and attacks its own small intestine. In the ensuing violence, the villi, which absorb nutrients are damaged or destroyed. With the villi not functioning, the person can become severely malnourished.

Recently, though, doctors have started to identify other conditions that might require a gluten-free diet. Gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity, is distinct from celiac in that it is not an auto-immune disease and involves a completely different biological response. The science is still young, though, and the symptoms are a bit nebulous. The primary signs include bloating, diarrhea and cramps, but the list includes well over 100 other symptoms as well.

There is also the possibility of developing an allergy to wheat, not necessarily to gluten. This is a completely different condition and may only justify avoiding wheat, rather than all gluten containing products.

Gluten intolerance and wheat allergies can both develop later in life and the numbers show that sufferers are steadily increasing.

Why the Increase?

Initially, the immediate skeptical response was to blame faulty diagnoses for the rise in gluten intolerance. Some experts, though, feel that there is legitimate concern due to modern genetic changes in wheat crops.

During the so-called Green Explosion of the 1950s, wheat was cross-bred to not only increase its productivity but to also increase its protein content. Many feel that this manipulation changed the gluten in ways that adversely affect the human body.

More research is needed to prove or disprove this theory, however.

Does Removing Gluten Help?

More and more people, though, are turning to gluten-free diets because they want to lose weight or because they’ve heard it can help their performance in competition.

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that avoiding gluten can do all that. It is possible that adopting a gluten-free diet could help you lose weight as a by-product of reducing highly processed, calorie-rich foods. Sometimes, sadly, the opposite is true. Many gluten-free foods are loaded with sugars and fats, which boost the calories dangerously high, despite .

No research supports the idea that gluten-free diets can help athletic performance, either. Again, it’s possible that you might feel better as a result of a more healthy diet but unless you have an undiagnosed sensitivity it’s the lack of gluten that’s helping you.

Sources

http://beta.active.com/nutrition/Articles/Should-You-Go-Gluten-Free?page=1

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200393522456636.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57483789-10391704/gluten-free-diet-fad-are-celiac-disease-rates-actually-rising/

Diet Reviews: The Sardine Diet

Fish, with its huge doses of omega-3 fatty acids, has received a recent push as a healthy protein choice. It’s no surprise, then, that many diets have been released that are specifically designed to help you up your fish intake. The Sardine Diet, as its name suggests, is just such a program.

First detailed in a 2006 book of the same name, the Sardine Diet was created by certified dietitian and nutritionist Keri Glassman. The diet isn’t restricted only to sardines. Many people will be glad to hear that the diet doesn’t require them to eat sardines for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Rather, it encourages low calorie, high fiber, high protein and high omega 3 meals. We’ll consider what the diet entails, its potential benefits, as well as any cons associated with the Sardine Diet.

sardineWhat the Diet Includes

Following this diet begins with purchasing the book, which includes numerous recipes and meal plans. The foods discussed in the book all use fish as the primary protein source and are designed to boost your intake in both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Since the recipes are provided and portions are pre-calculated, you never have to worry about counting your calories. This kind of detailed planning takes all the guesswork out of dieting for you and ensures that you’re eating properly.

The Sardine Diet consists of three meals and two snacks daily. The types of food you can expect to be eating on the sardine diet include “Albacore Tuna Wraps” and “Sardine Tostadas with Avocado Salsa.” One of the most outstanding features of the Sardine Diet is that sardines, tuna and the other fish that are featured are relatively inexpensive and easy to get. These fish are also low in mercury.

What it Does

The push for sardines and other fatty fish is based firmly on the well-documented benefits of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Although fat is a much maligned nutrient, there are both healthy and unhealthy fats. The fats that are emphasized in the Sardine Diet are extremely healthy, according to the American Heart Association. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lower the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, and slow the formation of harmful plaque on the walls of your arteries. Other potential benefits associated with these fats include reduced risk of breast cancer, improved mental health, improved joint health and decreased risk of inflammatory diseases like asthma and arthritis.

The Sardine Diet is also rich in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, which all work in conjunction to improve bone and joint health. High calcium intake is also associated with a lower risk of obesity.

Potential Faults and Considerations

No diet plan is ever perfect for everyone and, despite all of its touted benefits, there are things to consider before diving into the Sardine Diet. The first, and most obvious, factor to think about is how you feel about sardines and fish in general. Many people do not enjoy the taste and texture of the little fatty fish. The diet does allow for substitutions with other oily fish, like salmon, but sardines are the preferred option.

Another aspect to consider is the fact that, although it discusses it, the Sardine Diet offers no guidance regarding an exercise program. Diet is only one part of a healthy lifestyle, so when embarking on any diet you should never neglect your exercise plan.

Have you tried the Sardine Diet? Please share your experience with us in the comments.

Sources

http://sardinediet.com/diet.htm

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids_UCM_303248_Article.jsp

http://www.dietsinreview.com/diets/the-sardine-diet/