Earlier this summer, a study came out claiming that a gluten-free diet has no benefits for people without celiac disease. Some people have interpreted this to mean eating gluten-free can even be dangerous. But the articles surrounding this study fail to point out the many health benefits of eliminating gluten intake.
The pros of this dietary switch far outweigh the cons. For one thing, humans with or without celiac disease struggle to digest gluten, which creates an inflammatory response in the gut. When our bodies continuously struggle to break down gluten, this inflamed intestinal lining can lead to leaky gut syndrome. And combating numerous holes in your intestinal lining allows a variety of unwanted compounds to enter your bloodstream.
The Problem With Gluten
People with celiac disease have severe reactions to consuming gluten, but even those without this condition can experience inflammatory responses. And we know that the transition from acute to chronic inflammation, which damages tissue and cellular health, is one of the precursors to almost every degenerative disease. Eliminating gluten can even improve your insulin sensitivity – as long you are eating a healthy diet, not prepackaged gluten-free products with a high sugar content.
There are actually very few downsides to removing gluten from your diet; the most common one is a vitamin B deficiency, which ranks in the top three vitamin and mineral deficiencies for the general population. This can be easily remedied by taking a high-quality B complex supplement.
Gluten-Free Health Improvements
While removing gluten from your diet has the potential for only minor negative consequences – if any – the benefits are astounding. First of all, it leads to less inflammation and better gut health. A recently completed study showed almost immediate intestinal recovery in non-celiac subjects simply by removing wheat from their diets. Eliminating gluten benefits a wide range of medical conditions beyond celiac disease and can improve general health – as long as the diet consists of healthful ingredients.
Research at Harvard Medical School estimates that gluten sensitivity is a factor in half of the 60 million irritable bowel syndrome cases in the U.S. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine linked gluten consumption to 55 other medical conditions including osteoporosis, anemia, and multiple sclerosis, to name a few.
I’ve maintained a gluten-free diet since 2007, even though I do not have celiac disease. While I had always been a healthy eater, eating bread or pasta only a few times each week, I noticed immediate changes after removing gluten from my diet. I experienced a significant drop in body fat within weeks. I had more energy, less joint pain, and much better recovery from exercise. I also noticed an improvement in the quality of my sleep. Now I feel just as rested from six hours of sleep as I would have from eight before eliminating gluten.
I was already in good health before I eliminated gluten, but once I made the change I felt considerably better than I had before. I firmly believe in getting blood work done every six months, and one of the biggest improvements I saw after eliminating gluten was a significant drop in my hemoglobin A1c test, which shows a three-month average for blood sugar. The immediate impact of going gluten-free is obvious.
Delicious, Healthful, and Gluten-Free
Some people stress about choosing foods that are gluten-free, but what they’re forgetting is that most healthful foods fall into this category by definition. Here are five naturally gluten-free foods everyone should be eating more of:
1. Grass-fed proteins. Both meat and dairy products from grass-fed cattle have been shown to have much higher nutritional value than those from cattle fed primarily with grains. Raising grass-fed cows is also much less harmful to the environment. Whether you’re eating a steak or making beef Bolognese, grass-fed proteins can power you through your day.
2. Leafy green vegetables. Everyone knows that leafy greens are good for you; they should be a huge part of any diet, gluten-free or not. These vegetables have a wide range of health benefits, such as lower cholesterol, improving vision and bone health, and decreasing your risk of colon cancer.
3. Berries. Not only are they nutrient-dense and fun to eat, but they have also been linked to lowered risk of heart attack and mental decline with age. Whether you eat them alone or as a topping on a healthful snack, berries are an easy addition to any gluten-free diet.
4. Dark chocolate. In addition to tasting delicious, dark chocolate improves your circulation, your heart and brain function, and may even reduce health risks like obesity and diabetes.
5. Spices like turmeric, ginger, and cayenne. Spices are naturally gluten-free and are a simple way to add complexities of flavor to your meals. They also offer a variety of health benefits. Ginger, for example, is well-known for its ability to settle the stomach, but it is also reported to be a more effective pain reliever than ibuprofen. And turmeric, one of the main ingredients in curry powder, relieves symptoms of diseases like osteoarthritis and depression and has even been shown to combat the growth of tumors.
Healthful, delicious foods that don’t contain gluten are plentiful and easy to incorporate into your diet. Don’t let studies employing scare tactics steer you from the many naturally healthful gluten-free options you should eat. Going gluten-free is easier than you think – and your body will thank you.
Written by Jason Barbour. Jason is a highly sought after strength and nutritional consultant for busy executives and has worked with professional athletes from the NFL, NHL, and UFC, including three world champions and an Olympic medalist. In 2009, Jason started Metabolic Meals, one of the country’s largest healthy meal delivery companies with thousands of customers nationwide.