I made the decision to try a gluten free diet about six months ago with great results, but lately I’ve been hearing a lot of criticism of the GF diet. Let me be clear: I do not have Celiac disease, and I have not been diagnosed with a gluten allergy. I won’t go through this entire story again, but I learned that gluten (and perhaps more notably the chemicals used to treat wheat) can lead to inflammation, an underlying cause of several issues I’ve dealt with, including horrible sinus problems. So I decided to try the gluten free diet to see if any of my symptoms let up, and they all did within a few weeks. I honestly didn’t know I could feel so good, breathe so deeply. Talk about a new lease on life!
So what’s my problem? My problem is what I hear on TV, what I read in the newspapers, and what I hear from other people when I mention gluten. “A gluten free diet is not for everyone.” “A gluten free diet can be dangerous.” “Doctors warn against gluten free products.” When I first started hearing these claims, I listened. After all, I don’t know everything, and I might have missed something in my research. But here’s what I found: all of these claims assume that GF people are substituting every morsel of gluten with a GF substitute. They fail to consider what else a GF diet can look like: tons of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, dairy, and naturally GF grains like rice and quinoa. Depending on where you come down on meat and dairy, this list doesn’t look harmful. When I first went gluten free, I didn’t run to the store to replace every wheaty product in my kitchen. I began thinking about other foods I could eat instead. So my problem is that many critics of the gluten free diet are completely ignoring the various other options – the bounty – that people can eat instead.
As I have continued along this gluten free path,
taking many detours cheating along the way, I have purchased some gluten free products. I’ve cooked gluten free pasta, and once in a while I will buy gluten free pizza dough. There is a loaf of gluten free bread in my fridge right now. Do I like being able to eat the same foods without suffering side effects? You betcha. But these are no longer staples for me. Chicken is a staple, albeit more like a once-or-twice-a-week staple. Tomatoes, bananas, apples, avocados, walnuts, almonds, beans, brown rice. These are the things I’m buying every week (and much more – you should see my last grocery bill). Since I went gluten free, I have eaten more fruits and vegetables each day than I have at any other point in my life. One of the best things going gluten free has done for me is to seriously limit the processed foods I can eat. Not only do they contain wheat, but they also tend to contain all kinds of yummy preservatives and other chemicals that make gluten look like child’s play. Eating better and avoiding gluten has alleviated my inflammation, and it has also forced me to cook at home, helping me discover new recipes and ingredients along the way.
It’s frustrating to say the least to see people making such generalizations and assumptions about what a gluten free diet looks like and ignoring other possibilities. I’m not advocating for anyone to go gluten free or vegetarian or vegan or anything else. But I do want people to think about the foods they eat and to realize there’s more than one way to dodge the wheat and many, many other real foods to eat instead. And tis the season – with farmers markets opening soon, it’s about to be easier than ever to eat real, good food. Find your markets. Befriend your farmers. Thanks for listening.