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For those with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is a medical necessity and the only treatment for the disease. Those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity have discovered, through food elimination,  that consuming gluten causes them to have various health issues. These days, I encounter many who tell me they have “gone gluten-free” to lose weight or because it is “healthier.” But if you’re going gluten free, do it for the right reasons.

Here are my thoughts on this.

If, by “going gluten-free,” you eliminate bread, cereal, pastas and many snack items, you are just doing a version of the old-school Atkins diet — low carb and high protein — so you probably will lose weight since you are cutting out a whole food group.

The question is, how long can you keep this up? Also, many gluten-containing products are enriched and fortified, and contain fiber. By missing out on these vitamins, minerals and fiber, your diet may end up being less nutritious.

If, by “going gluten-free,” you eliminate gluten-containing products but substitute ancient grains and whole grains like quinoa, teff and brown rice, and begin eating more fruits and vegetables, you may also lose weight.

You are getting more nutrients, however, and your diet may be better than what you ate before, so you may feel healthier. The fact that you feel better may have more to do with what you added to your diet than what you eliminated.

If, by “going gluten-free,” you buy gluten-free versions of such packaged items as cookies, pizzas and snacks, you probably will not lose weight, and in fact may gain weight. When gluten is removed from packaged items, it often means more fat or sugar is added in. Also, sometimes the products are not enriched or fortified, so your diet may end up having fewer vitamins, minerals and fiber than you need.

The bottom line

Before you decide to “go gluten-free” to lose weight, start by thinking of ways you can make your overall eating habits better by adding more of the right foods rather than eliminating foods.

Talk to Leah

Leah McGrath is the corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets. Follow her @InglesDietitian. Contact her at Lmcgrath@ingles-markets.com, 800-334-4936 or at www.ingles-markets.com/ask_leah.

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