Types of gluten-free diets:
- An elimination diet
- A replacement diet
Elimination, as the name suggests, requires removing any gluten from the diet. In many cases, an elimination diet resembles a low-carbohydrate diet, where items containing gluten, such as breads, pasta and baked goods, are no longer consumed on a regular basis. However, to completely eliminate gluten from the diet, individuals need to be conscious of all the food items that might contain the protein, such as soups, sauces and gravies, for example. A typical meal with an elimination diet includes a portion of protein, vegetables and a gluten-free starch; dessert on a diet eliminating gluten can be fruit.
A replacement diet, however, requires finding items to substitute for those containing gluten. Those who follow a gluten-free replacement diet often look to include breads, baked goods and pasta in their meals in moderate amounts. These replacement food items are made with a variety of gluten-free flours.
Some otherwise healthy individuals claim going gluten free has helped them:
• Lose weight
• Boost energy levels
• Alleviate gastrointestinal distress
Yet, experts warn against these claims.
According to Dr. Daniel A. Leffler, director of clinical research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, there is no significant benefit to going gluten free for the average person.
In fact, Dr. Leffler claims the practice is a “waste of money” because gluten-free products are expensive. To be clear, Dr. Leffler is referring to a gluten-free replacement diet.
Drawbacks of going gluten free (for those not suffering from celiac disease, gluten intolerance, sensitivity or allergy):
• Possibility of overeating
• Loss of vital nutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate
• Higher caloric, fat and sugar content in many gluten-free replacement products
• Gluten-free products are typically more expensive
So, what’s the bottom line? The most recent research suggests those following a gluten-free diet for weight loss or to improve health should really be focusing on lower carbohydrate intake. A diet that eliminates gluten may be a healthier alternative for those looking to cut carbohydrates and calories; a gluten-free replacement diet would not be suggested.
Gluten- free diets that replace food items containing gluten with gluten-free alternatives should be left for those who really have an issue with gluten. To date, medical findings do not appear to support utilizing a gluten-free replacement diet for those who have no gluten intolerance, sensitivity, allergy or celiac disease.
For additional information on gluten-free diets and acceptable foods, visit: