What’s Gluten Got to Do with It?

StyleBlueprint Louisville Editor Heidi Potter shares today’s post from Dr. Christopher Mohr, PhD, RD, a nutrition spokesperson and consultant to a number of media outlets and corporations. Through his company Mohr Results, Inc., he works with all types of individuals, from soccer moms to collegiate and professional athletes.

 

Dr. Mohr: 

Gluten is certainly all the rage. From the ever-popular Paleo Diet popularized by Crossfit Gyms, to celebrities claiming that going gluten-free is the secret to weight loss success, to diet docs, to even soccer moms, people everywhere seem to have something to say about gluten. (We even saw a gluten-free stand at the Derby amidst the horses, mint juleps and sea of hats, believe it or not!) And considering that May is Celiac Awareness Month, this is the perfect time to talk a bit about this hot topic.

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Image credit: glennys.com

So what is gluten anyway? Why does it get such a bad rap? And is it deserved, or a hyped up “diet secret” of the stars?

Gluten is a protein found in many carbohydrates, such as wheat, barley and rye, among others. Basically, most cereals, pastas, breads and the like contain gluten. Of course there are gluten-free alternatives to these products, as well.

Let’s take a step back for a minute. There is a specific autoimmune disorder where people don’t digest gluten. This is called celiac disease and it affects 5 – 10% of the population. Again, May is Celiac Awareness Month.

Outside of those with celiac, gluten still gets a bad rap. Here are some of the reasons cited for eliminating gluten:

  1. It’s not digested properly.
  2. It causes bloating.
  3. It causes weight gain.
  4. It hurts recovery from training.
  5. It causes joint pain.
  6. Our ancestors didn’t eat grains, so why should we?

 

Outside of the last one, 1 – 5 are all symptoms of a person who may have celiac disease. So the first thing a person should do is to get tested to see if they truly have gluten sensitivity. Even if the test does come back negative, however, there is still a possibility of non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Having worked with people who have celiac disease in the past, true gluten insensitivity can be challenging. There are cases where you have to use different cooking tools in the kitchen, as the tiny bit of cross contamination from one pot or toaster to another, for example, could cause a reaction. But those who try to eliminate gluten–without a true diagnosis or sensitivity–surely wouldn’t have that same concern.

What we often tell people when it comes to gluten is that foods with gluten are not inherently “bad.” On the flip side, the foods that often do contain gluten may not be the best either. Eating loads of refined carbohydrates, like bread, cereal, pasta, muffins, pastries, etc., certainly isn’t great.

This isn’t a knock on gluten itself, but, rather, the sugar, food colorings, and other junky ingredients that are added to gluten-containing foods. (Froot Loops, anyone?). Also, what people often don’t think about is just how many foods may actually have some form of gluten in them … from soy sauce to hot dogs, ketchup, beer and deli meats.

And beer … who wants to give up beer? While the debunked argument of “eating like our ancestors” continues to resurface, we can assure you if the cavemen had access to beer, they would have drunk it, regularly! (Heck, what else was there to do?)

At the end of the day, here’s our take: Gluten itself is not bad, nor do you need to give it up, unless you have a true gluten sensitivity (like celiac), but it is a good idea to drastically reduce the amount of processed, overly sugared “junky” foods in your diet.

If you think you are sensitive, focus on naturally occurring gluten-free grains. These are high in fiber and loaded with great nutrients. Here’s a short list of some solid choices:

Amaranth

Buckwheat

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Nut flours (like almond flour)

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Coconut Flour

Chickpea Flour

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Image credit: theperfectpantry.com

Quinoa

Bottom line? It’s not necessary to throw gluten under the bus. It’s currently “trendy” to do so, but if you simply make smarter choices and focus on eating high fiber grains versus refined, junky carbs, you’ll be doing a great job in terms of making strides to reach your physical goals.

 

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Dr. Christopher Mohr, PhD RD, is a nutrition spokesperson and consultant to a number of media outlets and corporations including the The Dairy Council, Clif Bar, Subway, Cardioviva and Nordic Naturals. He is a consulting Sports Nutritionist for the Cincinnati Bengals and is also the Sports Nutritionist for Under Armour’s Training Council. Through his company Mohr Results, Inc., he works with all types of individuals from soccer moms to collegiate and professional athletes. He often appears on TV as a nutritional guest expert, including an appearance with Chef Emeril Lagasse and another on the Montel Williams Show. He was the nutrition expert for the NY Times Bestseller, LL Cool J’s Platinum Workout, and worked closely with Fitness Celebrity Denise Austin to create the entire nutrition component of her latest book. He is on the Advisory Board for Men’s Fitness Magazine and has written over 500 articles for consumer publications, such as Men’s Fitness, Weight Watchers and Men’s Health and Fitness, to name a few. Dr. Mohr has Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in nutrition from The Pennsylvania State University and University of Massachusetts, respectively. He earned his PhD in exercise physiology from the University of Pittsburgh and is a Registered Dietitian. Visit his website here: www.mohrresults.com. To contact Chris, email him at [email protected]

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