I have been known to say that "bread is the devil," but is it really the gluten found in bread that is the true devil? The term "gluten-free" is tossed around a lot these days, but many people do not actually know what gluten means. This not-so-new diet is much more than just skipping bread. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and crossbred hybrids of these grains. With celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and Victoria Beckham boasting the benefits of this trendy diet, many people have actually chosen to forego the gluten for medical reasons. The rise of celiac disease, a gluten intolerance, has paved the way for this eating movement by introducing specific food products, cookbooks and even restaurants that are completely gluten-free. However, this popular trend has actually led to studies that have shown that choosing to be gluten-free, when done correctly, can actually have many positive effects on our bodies.
Weight Loss: Choosing to kick gluten to the curb could actually help you lose weight. Going gluten-free can rid a ton of processed foods from your diet like bagels, cookies and cereal. It is also in many foods that you may not expect, like salad dressings, yogurt and cold cuts. By eliminating your intake of these products, the calories and fat that you are cutting from your diet can help you to shed the pounds. However, do not assume that every gluten-free item is good for you -- gluten-free cupcakes are still cupcakes, and these items should always be eaten in moderation.
Digestion and Inflammation: One of the most common and quickest improvements that are noticed when switching to a gluten-free diet are the changes in digestion. Many people notice they are having less indigestion and better bowel movements after a week of no gluten. Another side effect found in people who remove gluten from their diets is the lack of bloating and cramps. If you notice you have constant bloating, cramps and stomach aches, trying a gluten-free diet may help alleviate some of these symptoms
Thyroid Disease: Recent studies have linked thyroid disease and celiac disease. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program, introducing a gluten-free diet to patients with thyroiditis is effective in bringing autoantibodies down to normal levels.
Beware when looking for snacks on a gluten-free diet. Ingredients like malt and hydrolyzed vegetable protein are sources of gluten that can hide on ingredient labels. If you choose to get on the gluten-free bandwagon, here are my favorite food and snack swaps to help make the transition just a bit easier:
Cereal: Swap cereals like bran flakes or corn flakes for cereals with quinoa. Quinoa is a superfood for staying gluten free. I love CocoMama Cereal. It comes in three delicious flavors and is a great choice for a gluten-free breakfast.
Granola Bars: Granola bars usually contain barley and wheat. A great swap would be Balance BarDark Chocolate. This bar is not only 100 percent gluten-free but uses only 100 percent Rainforest Alliance Certified™ cocoa.
Chips: It may be hard to throw out that bag of your favorite chip, but there are plenty of snack options available when going gluten-free. A new chip on the market that I can't get enough of are ips. These chips are egg-white based, come in delicious flavors, and are completely gluten-free.
Cookies: Gluten-free cookies may not sound very appetizing, but if you chose the right ones you may be pleasantly surprised. Glow cookies are a great choice, including flavors like Double Chocolate Chip and Snickerdoodle.
For a full list of my favorite gluten free products, go here.