Gluten: is it really the cause of all evil?
We’ve all heard about gluten being the cause of all evil and the reason why we can’t all enjoy eternal youth and immortality. Most of the coffee shops and restaurants offer at least one gluten-free meal option and every supermarket has a gluten-free shelf filled with substitutes for everyday produce such as bread, pasta or cereals. Anti-gluten craze went so far that currently we can enjoy not only gluten free cookie dough, but also gluten free haircuts, floors and sheet metal… Even though the last few offers are clearly examples of creative marketing, we can all agree that since gluten-free products became a part of our reality, it would be worth to check what it's all about.
Is going gluten-free really such a good idea?
The main reason why we can enjoy wonders such as Glutenfreesingles dating site (I’m dead serious) and gluten-free tires (serious again) - in other words, why gluten-free products were introduced to our lives - is that around 1% of the world’s population suffers from a medical condition called celiac disease (CD). This unfortunate condition basically disenables them from consuming gluten, or, more precisely, from functioning once gluten is consumed, unless their main objective is to spend time on the toilet. There’s also a group of people who are gluten-intolerant and face similar symptoms as the ones who have CD. Together they constitute up to 2% of our population and are the ones responsible for gluten-free products appearing in our lives.
But before you begin to blame them for the galloping hipster pandemy which never ceases to destroy the last remaining bastions of normality, let me drag your attention to the consequences of gluten allergy. These fellas don’t really have it all rosy - here’s what they have to go through:
'Gluten' is a general name for the group of proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. It basically acts as a sort of super-glue that holds the food together, allowing it to keep its shape. But the biggest problem of the anti-gluten party isn’t their sense of esthetics suffering when they’re forced to go for meals resembling Pokemon Muk (they aren’t, btw). The main problem is that gluten can be found in breads and other baked goods, soups, pasta, cereals, sauces, salad dressings, malt, food colouring, beer and yeast. Oh, and also in a bunch of other things you’d never thought could contain gluten and that doesn’t make grocery shopping particularly easy. They have to make a lot of extra effort in order to prepare meals which seem duck soup to us. In addition to difficulties with finding specific substitutes, they often have to pay a much higher price to enjoy products gluten-eaters have for peanuts. And finally, there’s always a risk that somehow, somewhere, someone mistakenly got a tiny bit of gluten in their food and the consequences are on their way.
The gluten-free diet is therefore a bit more challenging and you’ll definitely notice a change in your grocery bill. So if you aren’t gluten-intolerant or suffering from CD, is it an effort worth making? The worshippers of ‘Gluten Is The Source Of All Evil’ theory will definitely argue that it’s an amazing decision that’s bound to change your life. As for me, such an attitude appears to resemble the one of Waitrose enthusiasts who (perhaps legitimately) seem to believe that a carrot for 4 quid has actual superpowers. Meanwhile no scientific study has shown that glutenless existence is particularly beneficial for the ones who treat it as a choice. Moreover,
radical removal of gluten from your diet might lead to
lack of vital nutritional elements such as
some vitamins (B9) or fiber. In order for your body to function healthily you’d have to find different sources such as brown rice, quinoa, beans etc.
Composing your new diet basing solely on the information found online doesn’t always bring the best results, to say the least. So in spite of the current trends and all your friends going vegetarian, vegan, raw, gluten-free and / or organic, don’t rush to your local superfood store just yet. Waiting a couple more days won’t harm you (unlike a poor diet) and it’s always better to consult a dietician before any major dietary change. You wouldn’t just jump on the pist without hiring an instructor first, right?