“Will eliminating gluten help me lose weight?”
This is a question I get from my patients at least once a week.
The answer in some cases is yes. I say some cases because it completely depends on the reasons WHY someone goes gluten free and HOW someone goes about embracing a gluten free (GF) lifestyle.
Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, barley, & rye. Gluten is now something many people need to avoid out of necessity as they either have Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance. Gluten is also something many people avoid because a) it’s a trendy thing to do now and b) people think it will help them lose weight.
Here are the allowed foods for someone following a GF diet (meaning they are naturally free of gluten):
Beans, Nuts, Seeds (preferably in their most unprocessed form- to avoid contamination – for those folks who truly have Celiacs or a sensitivity)
Gluten free grains: Rice/Corn/Flax/Buckwheat/Hominy/Quinoa (keen-wah)/Soy/Arrowroot/Amaranth/millet/Sorghum/teff/tapioca
There are also many varities of GF flour one can utilize for GF baking and recipes. Bob’s Red Mill is a brand I love using- for the few items I have purchased thus far!
Wow. So as you can see there are a lot of really healthy whole foods one can be eating should they be eliminating gluten for one reason or another.
Hold up. So right now- you could be thinking to yourself so “I could be following a GF diet, and not be missing out on much. I can still have certain grains, all my meats, and veggies. So what’s the catch?”
Here are the “no-no” foods -meaning these are your sources of gluten
Barley/Wheat/Triticale/Rye/Even some oats
But it’s not that simple these things can be labeled on your ingredients list as:
bulgur/durum or durum flour/farina/semolina/kamut/graham flour/spelt
And these? These foods/drinks you should straight up avoid unless they are marked gluten free:
-Imitation meat/seafood (yuck)
-Process lunch meats
-Store bought sauses/seasoning packets & mixes
-Seasoned snack foods like chips and crackers
-Any type of pre-seasoned meat
-Soups & soup bases
-Vegetables that come in a sauce
So at this point we can actually talk about the weight loss. Some people who follow a “clean” GF diet will see weight loss. Because they are purging out a lot of processed foods like chips, cakes, etc. When I see patients that truly have an issue with gluten, I typically recommend to them to find ways to increase their vegetable intake first, then focus on lean protein intake, followed by selecting appropriate portions of whole grains like quinoa, and brown rice (PORTIONS ARE KEY), and include items like fruit and dairy throughout the day for snacks.
To be fair though- you can still see the same results even if you aren’t following a gluten free lifestyle.
The portions here are still important. You can’t eat an entire plate of quinoa and call it one serving. Sorry. It just doesn’t work that way- and that won’t help people lose weight.
Here is a reason why some people “fail” when trying to follow a GF diet- the biggest reason I see people fail is they do not embrace the foods and advice I listed above. Instead they continue their originial diet, and swap out their gluten filled processed foods for gluten free processed foods (brownies, chips, cakes etc) – just because the are GF does not make them “free foods”.
1) Following a balanced gluten free diet can help you lose weight, but so can following a diet that has gluten in it.
2) Regardless of why you go gluten free, portion control is important. Just because a grain does not have gluten in it doesn’t mean it’s a free food.
3) Gluten free processed foods are still processed foods and will still have plenty of empty calories to go around.
Also for all of you gluten avoiders- please stay tuned I am planning to do a piece in the next few weeks on smartphone apps, and finding GF recipes, and GF dining/dishes!!!