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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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