A Comprehensive Introduction to Gluten
There’s a new trend (there always is) in the world of weight loss. According to those who believe this trend, gluten intake is one of the causes of weight gain so if you want to lose weight, stop taking it in. Thus, gluten-free is becoming a very popular, especially on the shelves in shops and food malls. What is this gluten? Why has it been associated with weight gain? Is it really to blame for weight gain? These questions we will answer in this article.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains and cereals such as wheat, barley, oats etc. It is made up of 2 proteins namely gliadin and glutenin. It has a stretchy feel which makes it useful in the fermentation process. In fact, it is one of the reasons why wheat and wheat-based products like flour are used for baking. For those familiar with baking breads and the like, you would know that fermentation leads to the swelling of the dough. This swelling is actually the Carbon dioxide gas which is kept inside the dough. This gas is kept in due to the stretchy nature of gluten in flour.
Why has gluten been associated with weight gain?
For one, gluten is causes a disease known as the coeliac disease or simply put, gluten intolerance. In thse people with this disease, their bodies react to even the slightest traces of gluten in their diet. Remember we mentioned that gluten is made up of 2 different proteins, glutenin and gliadin. While glutenin is easily digested, gliadin is not. Also, many people say that when they stop eating foods with gluten, they lose weight.
Gluten and weight loss: Friends or Foes?
Based on the above discussion, food manufacturers decided to produce what is now known as gluten-free foods. These foods have been treated such that all traces of gluten have been removed. While some who avoid gluten say that they have lost weight, unfortunately for others, they continue gaining weight even after switching to gluten-free foods. Why the difference in results?
For those who lost weight, the trick was not because gluten was not in their foods, but because they had cut off the foods containing gluten. With these foods off their diets, their calorie consumption was reduced, causing the body to use its fat reserves for daily activities. This in turn led to their weight loss.
To further prove the point, those who gained weight after switching to gluten free foods maintained the same diets but used guten-free alternatives. This is likely because of 2 reasons. One, gluten free products are often lower in nutritional value and have less fiber than their gluten-containing alternatives. Secondly, because gluten free foods lack sweetness, manufacturers add sugars and fat. These added sugars and fats to make them sweeter, but cause the consumer to gain weight.
The take away: Gluten is not to blame or weight gain. Lifestyle and diet is. So, unless you are gluten intolerant, try not to remove gluten altogether. Rather, for weight loss, look to ways of reducing your calorie intake and having as much exercise as possible.
PhotoCredit: Celiac Disease Foundation