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Are Gluten-Free Products Healthier Than Regular Foods? Probably Not, Study Finds

Are Gluten-Free Products Healthier Than Regular Foods? Probably Not, Study Finds

These days, more and more people are claiming that a gluten-free diet can help with bloating, exhaustion, and headaches. It seems that the number of people suffering from celiac disease has risen dramatically in the last 60 years and, according to some researchers, nobody is sure why.

Most “celiac sufferers” nowadays have not had a proper diagnosis, but have diagnosed themselves using Google. In many cases, there is no need to remove gluten from the diet. The spreading of the fad has led health and food industries to jump on the bandwagon, laughing all the way to the bank.

Celiac disease statistics

People with a true gluten problem make up just one per cent of the global population. Just one in a hundred people are likely to have problems eating foods which contain gluten (a protein). They usually have had a proper diagnosis, including a gut biopsy. Any food made from wheat, rye, and barley —  couscous, pasta, cakes, bread, cereals, crackers and muffins — are likely to cause stomach problems ranging from diarrhoea to vomiting. These people have to stick to a rigid gluten-free diet and be very careful about what they are consuming. They usually eat eggs, fresh meat, potatoes, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.

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Gluten-free is a fad

The gluten-free diet seems to be a trend that will take time to die down. Some celebrities have made public their passion for gluten-free diets. In Italy, the incidence of celiac disease has been taken seriously. Today, gluten-free pasta and pizza are readily available. The Mediterranean diet has been adapted to fit with these dietary restrictions.

What is the problem?

People have become aware of this fad because of massive hype and advertising. The real cause of celiac disease is that the gluten protein contained in all those pastries and pasta causes an auto-immune reaction. The body treats gluten as an enemy and reacts accordingly to get rid of it. It can be very painful and rather uncomfortable.

Are gluten-free foods any healthier?

Many people who have not had a proper diagnosis see gluten as the number one enemy and mistakenly think avoiding it will solve all their health problems. They purchase gluten-free foods, which can be quite expensive.

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Are these foods really more nutritious and healthier? The research suggests that they are not.

Dr. Jason Wu and his team led research on this at the University of Sydney’s George Institute for Global Health. They found that there was little nutritional difference in the 3,200 gluten-free products that they tested. These products had lower levels of protein and fewer vitamins and minerals, which were compensated for with higher amounts of salt and sugar. This suggests that the gluten-free products are not ideal from a nutritional point of view. But, for the genuine celiac sufferer, they give extra options that can be made up for by opting for healthier choices when eating other foods.

“Many people need gluten-free food, but there is a growing group who are only trying it for its apparent healthiness.” – Dr. Jason Wu

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Beware of the labels

Food labels are a two-edged sword. They can provide useful information on what you are about to eat, but they can also be misinterpreted. Advertisers have no qualms about misleading the public. There is a growing perception that gluten-free foods are healthier.

There is also another problem in that when people see healthy labels, like “bio,” “organic,” “low-fat,” and “gluten- free,” they tend to eat a lot more than they normally would. This is known as the “health halo” effect.

“Misinterpretation by consumers, especially of junk foods, that gluten-free means they are healthy is a real concern.” – Dr. Jason Wu

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The old rules still apply

Unless you are a celiac sufferer, you can ignore all those gluten-free food labels and just follow the good old rules. Avoid any highly processed foods and go for whole grains with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

If you suspect that gluten intolerance may be at the root of your ill health, why not get a proper diagnosis? You could solve a lot of problems and save a lot of money by not unnecessarily buying gluten-free products. Don’t be swayed by all the celebrities that have told the whole world about their dietary concerns.

Featured photo credit: Gluten-Free Banana Bread with Yoghurt and Berries/Alpha via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

1. Cat Camel Stretch

Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

Here’s a video to guide you through:

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2. Go for a Walk or a Run

This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

3. Jumping Jacks

Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

4. Abductor Side Lifts

Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

5. Balancing Table Pose

This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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    6. Leg Squats

    Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

    Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

    The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

    7. Push Ups

    You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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    An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

    Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

    This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

    8. Bicycle Crunches

    There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

    Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

    9. Lunges

    Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

    Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

    This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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    10. Bicep Curls

    You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

    Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

    Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

    Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

    Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

    These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

    You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

    Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

    More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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