Is gluten free Pasta healthy?
The truth behind the new trend
Only the 1% of the world population cannot digest gluten, however more and more people decide to go gluten free on the basis of assumed health benefits. According to a recent poll, approximately one in five Americans say they actively try to incorporate gluten-free foods in their diet. The gluten-free market is therefore experiencing an incredible growth, worthy more than $320 millions, helped by several Hollywood stars. But is it really healthy?
What is Gluten and
why is it (said to be) bad?
Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected. The most common are bread, pasta, pizza and cereals. Though often thought of as a single compound, gluten is a collective term that refers to many different types of proteins found in wheat, barley and rye.
When flour is mixed with water, the gluten proteins form a sticky network that has a glue-like consistency. This property makes the dough elastic and gives bread the ability to rise when baked. Gluten also provides a chewy, satisfying texture but any essential nutrients. Interestingly, the name “glu-ten” is derived from this glue-like property of wet dough.
Most people tolerate gluten just fine. However, it can cause problems for people with certain health conditions such as celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy. Celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance and affects about 0.7-1% of the population. Another 0.5-13% of the world population suffers from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a less severe form. All this people must ditch gluten from their diet in order to avoid painful and unpleasant side effects.
The gluten free diet trend
After being confined to health-food stores for years, gluten-free foods now show up everywhere. Supermarket aisles abound with products proudly labeled “Gluten free,” and many restaurants now offer gluten-free options. Between 2005 and 2010 gluten free products grew by nearly 80 per cent!
For people who can’t tolerate gluten this abundance is a blessing. For everyone else, though, it is an unnecessary, and potentially unhealthy, diet. Based on little or no evidence other than testimonials in the media, people have been switching to gluten-free diets to lose weight, boost energy, treat autism, or generally feel healthier.
There are more and more consumers who see gluten-free as just part of a broader set of claims associated with “natural” or healthier foods. Also, many of them think that they can help them lose weight.
The risks and the disadvantages
of going gluten free (if you don't need to).
For people who do not suffer from celiac disease, going gluten free is first of all extremely challenging, especially when eating away from home, because so many foods contain gluten - even those that aren't obvious gluten sources. Looking for gluten free products at the market or at the restaurant can be indeed pretty exhausting – all wasted energy if you do not really need it.
Second, gluten-free products can be several times more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. One reason that gluten free products cost more is that every ingredient must be free from contamination from the field to the processing -to the packaging plant. Why should you spend more if you do not eat it?
Third, and more important. A gluten free diet is not healthier. Rather, to compensate from the lack of grains, gluten-free foods typically contained more saturated fat, sugar and salt than regular food items, while also being lower in fibre and protein content. Whole grains are associated with cardiovascular benefits, so we can state that cutting them off when not necessary is more likely to be unhealthy. And, because of the sugar added, it will not help you to get thinner.
How to lose weight &
eat healthy with a balanced diet
There's no reason your grocery budget has to grow in order for your waistline to shrink. Even if celebrities ranging from Oprah Winfrey to Miley maintain that they've lost weight gluten-free, if you ask the American Dietetic Association, the answer is a firm "no"— there's no proven use for the gluten-free diet beyond celiac disease, and "there is nothing special about a gluten-free diet that can help a person lose weight."
In order to lose weight, one must follow a well-balanced pattern diet without harmful deprivation. The Mediterranean Diet for instance has been often associated with both weight loss and healthy benefits: even though it may seem strange for some, Pasta, one of the main staples of the Mediterranean Diet can indeed be part of a healthy diet. Just be careful to eat the right size, not to overcook it (al dente pasta has lower glycemic index!) and to prefer seasonal, fresh ingredients for your Pasta sauce.
While fad diets like the Gluten- free might achieve short-term results, they are difficult to sustain in the long term. They often eliminate entire food groups, which means they’re unlikely to provide adequate amounts of key nutrients that are essential for our health and well-being. The Mediterranean diet, on the contrary, has a strong focus on intake of core foods in addition to olive oil, coffee and wine, and low intake of meat, sugar and highly processed foods and can help you live healthy and fit!
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