Is a Gluten Free Diet Right for You?

Hiya Gorgeous,

Every day I hear a new story about someone feeling a whole lot better after adopting a gluten free diet. While there are conditions that make gluten a no-no, it’s not necessary to avoid gluten if it works for you. But perhaps you have a sensitivity to gluten, or maybe you’re interested in finding out if a gluten free lifestyle can help you feel more fabulous

First, let’s look at the pros and cons of going gluten free. Then I’ll share three steps to help you reduce or eliminate your intake.

Pros of a Gluten Free Diet

First of all, for those with celiac disease, whether to avoid gluten isn’t even a question—you MUST follow a gluten-free diet, and you probably need to check your toothpaste, laundry detergent, deodorant and Play-Doh for gluten as well.

But for those who just want to feel more vibrant, reducing the gluten in your diet can have the following benefits:

  • Increase nutrient-rich foods. With gluten-packed pasta, crescent rolls and biscuits off the menu, chances are you’ll be reaching for more sweet potatoes, quinoa, beans, lentils, millet, brown rice and other gluten-free grains—wonderful alternatives. These whole food options are much better fuels for your tank than refined grain products.
  • Reduce sugary baked goodies. Cakes, cookies, brownies, pies… More often than not, these sweet treats are made with wheat products, and wheat contains gluten (boooo!). Saying buh-bye to gluten may mean you’re no longer dipping into the cookie jar, instead curbing your sugar cravings with healthier swaps like fruit or dark chocolate. These choices have vitamins and minerals to accompany their satisfying sweetness!
  • Improve thyroid function. Celiac or not, ditching gluten may help improve thyroid function. This is especially true if you have an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease.

The Cons of a Gluten Free Diet

At this point you may be thinking, “well this all sounds great, Kris, count me in—gluten free diet, here I come! ” Not so fast, toots. If you’re not cautious, following a gluten free path can steer you in the wrong direction. Here are some pitfalls to watch out for:

  • Tricky labels. Remember, “gluten free” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy.” Breads and baked goods marked gluten free are frequently made of rice, potatoes and corn that are often much lower in fiber than their gluten-containing counterparts (wheat bran is a great source of insoluble fiber).
  • Naturally gluten free. And then there are the “naturally gluten free” items that marketers position as better-for-you choices based solely on the absence of the demonized ingredient. So now a bunch of candies are labeled gluten free because the ingredients—sugar, nougat, caramel, syrups, hydrogenated oils—all have zero gluten. See how a gluten free diet can easily become unhealthy if you’re not careful?
  • Skyrocketing grocery bills. Until demand increases considerably, gluten free goods are going to be pricey—sometimes more than three times the cost of the regular versions (think store-bought waffles, breads, muffins, etc.). Whenever possible, make gluten free foods from scratch to avoid the hefty hike in grocery budget (tips and ideas below).
  • Missing out on iron and B vitamins. Wheat flour is fortified with iron and B vitamins, sometimes the richest source of these nutrients in a person’s diet. If wheat flour is your main source of iron and B vitamins, and you decide to switch to gluten free breads and flours, make sure they’re fortified or that you’re taking a B-complex vitamin and/or multivitamin.
  • Eating too many calories. Lots of folks shun gluten thinking it will help with weight loss, but if you’re merely replacing your typical gluten staples with gluten free breads, muffins and other gluten free starches, you may be doing more harm than good. Several gluten free products rely on oils, eggs and low-fiber starches to mimic wheat flour and gluten. Extra oil means extra calories, and a lack of fiber makes these foods easier to overeat—a double whammy.
  • Egg whites are everywhere. Egg whites help give gluten free breads and baked goods the binding and bounce that gluten usually supplies. If you already avoid eggs and want to avoid gluten, too, it can be tough to find products in the grocery store that meet your criteria. You’ll likely be making lots of homemade goodies with flaxseed meal, aquafaba and chia seeds.

3 Steps to Go Gluten Free the Healthy Way

Follow these three tips to scale back or eliminate gluten without the negatives:

  1. 1. Enjoy high-fiber, gluten-free whole grains.

Replace wheat, barley and rye with naturally high-fiber options. For example, choose quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat groats, gluten free oats, sorghum flour and popcorn, over white rice, rice flour, potatoes and corn. Here’s a good resource for more info on gluten-free fiber sources.

  1. 2. Bake from scratch.

Lots of gluten-free baked goods are not only expensive, but they rely heavily on preservatives and eggs to mimic the “glueyness” of gluten. Check out sites like Oh She Glows and Minimalist Baker for some tasty inspiration.

  1. 3. Get creative with legumes.

Beans and lentils are loaded with nutrition and are the perfect starchy substitute for gluten-containing flours and foods. Use them in place of pasta or try bean-powered pasta products like the yummy options from Banza. You can even use beans to make baked goods!

Psst… You’ll also find some epically delicious, naturally gluten-free recipes in my tasty plant-based cookbook, Crazy Sexy Kitchen. So much yumminess!

If gluten is a problem for you, you can cut it out and still maintain a perfectly healthy diet. With the info and tips above, you’re all set to forge an educated, beneficial gluten-free path. I see creative, delicious, high-fiber and ultra-nutritious meals in your future!

Your turn: Have you tried cutting out gluten? How has your experience been? What advice can you share? We’d love to know!

Peace & quinoa,

Kris Carr

P.S. Want to eat better but don’t know where to start?

My Inner Circle Wellness community is here to help! When you join, you get access to 40+ Nutrition Workshops with a Registered Dietitian, 30+ Cooking Classes, 150+ Vegan Recipes, monthly coaching sessions with me, Q&As with a Registered Dietitian, and so much more! Learn more about Inner Circle Wellness here.