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A few good reasons to not fear gluten...

People... Not everyone should cut out gluten!  There are lots of healthy gluten-containing whole grains that need some love.

Carbs, especially those that contain gluten, have gotten a really bad rap the past few years, and I'm feeling kind of bad for them.  I'm not talking about donuts, or even Italian or ciabatta bread (although I do love all of you dearly - in moderation!).  I'm talking about good old oats (even though you technically don't contain gluten), or farro, or wheatberries or all of those other whole grains that deserve a place in a healthy diet.  After all, it's all about balance, moderation, and quality, right?!

Apparently, about β…“ of us think that gluten-containing carbs are off limits. Well, I'm certainly not in favor of refined carbs - all of that white flour and sugar definitely got us into a bad place nutritionally, but whole grains deserve a place in our diets, even if they contain gluten.  They're full of the quick energy, fiber, and protein that our bodies need to run efficiently and feel well. Anyone who has ever tried to be productive, or even get a good work out in knows that you just don't feel as well if you cut out those carbs.

Whole grains include things like oats and barley that are packed with soluble fiber to lower blood sugar and cholesterol.  And then there's  farro - which makes such a perfect low glycemic index substitute for risotto, and wheatberries, which add delightful chewiness and bulk to a grilled veggie salad.  And of course, there's millet, and sorghum and teff - if you really do want a gluten-free whole grain.  Whole grains are the cream of the crop when it comes to grains and they shouldn't be on the Do Not Eat List unless you  are gluten intolerant, or have a proven allergy or sensitivity to them!

It seems that a few researchers agree, because here's what they're sayin':

A study from the University of Illinois at Chicago examined blood and urine samples from a group of individuals who followed a gluten-free diet and found that they had 70% higher levels of toxic mercury and twice as much arsenic in their bodies than their gluten-eating friends.  It might be because they eat more rice, but the cause wasn't determined.

Researchers from Tufts University found that eating a diet rich in whole grains when substituted for refined grains, results in increased metabolism, to the tune of about 100 calories per day - that's 10 pounds a year people!

A few good reasons to eat your gluten...|Craving Something Healthy
image: Chris Lawton

Finally, in a study that looked at exercise performance in cyclers who preferred a gluten-free diet because they believe it enhances athletic performance, researchers found absolutely no difference when the athletes ate a gluten-free energy bar or a gluten-containing energy bar.  AKA it was all in their head.

Bottom line - if you have celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten intolerance, or a wheat allergy, you should absolutely avoid grains that contain gluten or wheat. But for the rest of us, it's all about choosing non-processed grains and eating them in moderation. They really can give you that extra energy boost and a decent amount of fiber which can have many important health benefits.

What's your favorite whole grain?  Do you try to limit gluten?

Eat well!


  1. Kelli Shallal says:

    My hubby is gluten free, dairy free, and egg free. In general we are working on building up his immune system and food tolerance. Just because one person has a bonafide reason to be gluten free doesn't mean that everyone does. I still eat gluten (in whole grain sources) even though he can't! I saw that study about the arsenic levels, very interesting!

    1. Oh goodness Kelli! So many dietary restrictions to deal with πŸ™ I love my whole grains too - with or without gluten!

  2. Lauren O'Connor says:

    Good case for not restricting gluten (unless of course you must due to celiac or gluten allergies). Agreed with enjoying while mindful non-processed and moderation. : )

  3. Charlene Pors says:

    This is so great! It's truly sad how much gluten gets a bad rep, and it is truly an innocent little protein! Wonderful post- thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks so much Charlene!

  4. Betsy Ramirez says:

    My last experience drove me crazy when she told me she was gluten free then ordered a beer. (face palm). Gluten is good if you don't have an issue with it!

    1. Ha! I know what you mean!

  5. Amy Gorin says:

    What a great idea!

  6. Danielle Omar - Food Confidence RD says:

    Such an important topic! So many people needlessly restrict their diet in the name of "healthy" these days!

    1. SO true Danielle! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Whitney @ To Live & Diet in L.A. says:

    Pro-gluten here! Way to spread the word and fight fear-mongering πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Whitney! There are so healthy many wheat-based whole grains that people are missing out on!

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