What It Means to Be Gluten-Free

What It Means to Be Gluten-Free

Gluten-free diets have significantly increased in popularity over the past decade. Over 3.1 million Americans follow a gluten-free diet. Although people with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity forgo products with gluten out of necessity, the majority of Americans eating gluten-free do so in order to reap the incredible health benefits. Of the 3.1 million Americans following a gluten-free diet, 71% of them are classified as “PWAGs” - people who don’t have celiac disease but chose to avoid gluten.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. The latter is responsible for most of the negative health effects. Gluten is what helps food keep its shape. When you mix flour with water, the gluten proteins create a sticky agent that makes dough elastic. It also helps bread rise when baked and gives food a chewy and satisfying texture. Gluten is commonly found in foods like bread, pasta, cereal, and pizza. Scientists have discovered new ingredients that can actually mimic gluten without the harmful side effects that come with traditional gluten. Hence, the creation of gluten-free products! Giving up gluten doesn’t mean you have to give up all your favorite foods. Smart for Life has created amazing gluten-free protein bars, cookies, and cupcakes so you can enjoy all the flavor and texture of your favorite snacks without feeling bloated or groggy afterward.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new definition for “gluten-free” in 2013. For food to be labeled as gluten-free, it must contain at most 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Products with less than 20 ppm of gluten can be labeled as “gluten-free”, “free of gluten”, “without gluten”, or “no gluten”.

Why You Should Eat Gluten-Free

Gluten provides no essential nutrients and actually has been known to cause a range of negative effects including bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue, skin problems, joint and muscle pain, brain fog, and iron-deficiency anemia. This protein has also been linked to bowel diseases including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Its damaging effects on the gut can affect the entire body.

The availability and convenience of gluten-free options have skyrocketed in recent years. You may have noticed restaurants are adding little symbols to their menus to indicate an item is gluten-free. Some restaurants, especially health-conscious ones, even offer an entirely separate menu dedicated to special dietary preferences that include gluten-free, vegan, keto, and vegetarian options. You are also likely to find a whole section in your local grocery store offering gluten-free products. You may not have even realized that some of your health issues could be attributed to gluten you’re eating. Choosing to take the plunge and go gluten-free could actually help with an extensive range of symptoms. Emma Ehrenfeld, a writer for Healthline, chooses to eat gluten-free even though she doesn’t have celiac disease.

“For some, it’s just an experiment. But many others, like me, have found the switch helps relieve a surprising range of symptoms, from digestive issues to chronic stubborn ailments like fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, and anxiety,” Emma said.

Once the gluten-free craze began, many started to wonder whether people not suffering from celiac disease or gluten-intolerance could still experience the positive effects of giving up gluten. Recent studies have shown that eating less gluten can not only improve gut health but also help aid weight loss.

In 2018, a study was conducted by the University of Copenhagen in Denmark to determine whether a diet low in gluten is beneficial for people who are not allergic to it. Oluf Pederson, of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research and Lead Researcher of the study, said: “We demonstrate that, in comparison with a high-gluten diet, a low-gluten, fiber-rich diet induces changes in the structure and function of the complex intestinal ecosystem of bacteria, reduces hydrogen exhalation, and leads to improvements in self-reported bloating. Moreover, we observed a modest weight loss, likely due to increased body combustion triggered by the altered gut bacterial functions.”

Removing gluten from diets has also shown to improve cholesterol levels and increase energy levels. If you choose to eat gluten-free, you’ll eliminate many unhealthy foods from your diet like oil, fried food, pasta, and bread. You are also more likely to eat fruits and vegetables because they are all gluten-free. Not only does this reduce your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes, it will also help ward off viruses and germs because you will be eating more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

If you’re like me and hate the thought of giving up your favorite desserts, don’t fret. Not only can Smart for Life’s gluten-free snacks be used as meal replacements, but they can also be incorporated into your diet as healthy desserts. With scrumptious flavors like Red Velvet, Chocolate Chip, Caramel Almond, and Peanut Butter, you can reap all of the delicious benefits of removing gluten from your diet.

Click here to shop all of Smart for Life’s gluten-free products, including protein bars, cupcakes, cookies, and weight loss kits.

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