It seems that every other person I talk to has decided to go ‘gluten free’. If I inquire further as to why, I am given the impression that gluten is a harbinger of death and should be banished entirely. A loaf of bread will grow bat wings and haunt you in your sleep. “It’s the cause of all of our diseases!” they’ll say, or more commonly “Have you read Wheat Belly?”. Please excuse the erratic twitch in my eye, but I tend to have an uncontrollable reaction to sensationalism. Yes, our wheat and other grains are not what they once were. They are sometimes nutrient poor and can be prone to extreme levels of processing.
My concern, though, lies not with those facts but with the implications of encouraging EVERYONE to go gluten free. More importantly, not all gluten free products are created equal! Gluten Free (GF) has become synonymous with health. As long as it has that glowing halo written somewhere on the package, the perception is that it must be good for you. Perhaps the real health issue is that many grain-based foods are over processed and therefore, too difficult for the body to digest and utilize. The new buzz is that gluten has important components that can actually help us to be healthier when they are not highly processed.
Herein lies my real concern; someone will have GF toast for breakfast, then GF bread with their sandwich at lunch, eat a GF muffin for a snack, and then have a GF butter tart for dessert. Not only is one consuming all of the sugar and fat, but probably spent a small fortune to do so. Ten dollar bread does not make French toast healthy!
Unless one has an underlying issue, such as Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity for example, it is not necessary to eliminate gluten entirely. This is where I encourage the ‘less is more’ philosophy for all processed foods, GF or otherwise. If products containing gluten are something you eat on occasion, they will do far less damage. Particularly when you choose something organic that has natural sugars and other whole, well sourced ingredients. There are also some fantastic products out there made with sprouted grains. They have a higher nutrient content, are a good source of fiber, and can be much easier to digest.
You can improve your health further by incorporating organic raw fruits and vegetables into your daily meals as these foods are very alkalizing. This is important to remember as a diet high in refined sugar and processed foods can increase the level of acidity within the body, potentially causing inflammation and bacterial growth. Mineral rich, dark leafy greens are a great way to add more alkaline foods to your meals. So, festively sprinkle some arugula onto your stir fry! Put a handful of Kale into your salad! Sneak some spinach into your smoothie! Let glorious tidbits of parsley rain down over your omelette! I encourage all of the above.
It can be difficult to navigate through what to eat and what not to eat, and is the information you are receiving accurate, especially when it feels as though everyone is on board. However, there will always be hype and there will always be a new dietary game-changer. Our role as consumers is to question what we hear and read, to be objective, and to do our own research to ensure ideal results. When it impacts our health and how we feel on a day to day basis, it really is worth taking the time to find out the facts. In doing so, we can make more educated and healthier choices for ourselves as well as for our families.
Emily Webb is a Newmarket based practitioner who has always had a passion for food and helping others. She decided to combine her two loves by returning to school and becoming a RHN (Registered Holistic Nutritionist). With a whole food philosophy as her focus, she encourages those that she teaches through humour and lightness. Her goal is to take the fear out of food and make health, vitality, and well-being more accessible to all.
For more information, please go to www.emilywebbwellness.com