Gluten Is Not the Enemy
By SOPHIA ZARIFOPOULOS
Fad diets will always exist, but recently the “gluten-free” diet has caught many people’s attention.
The main issue concerning this diet is that most people lack awareness regarding gluten and its “negative effects.” If people can’t even define what they are excluding from their diet, let alone why, then how come everyone is so afraid of it? Gluten is a mixture of two proteins, prolamins and glutelins, and is predominantly found in grains, especially wheat. Celiac disease affects approximately 1% of the US population, and is the result of someone ingesting gluten and having an immune reaction which, in turn, damages the small intestine. Celiac disease is different from being simply gluten intolerant or sensitive. Recently, many people have been led to believe that excluding gluten will help them lose weight. This is a common misconception. Certified personal trainer Madelaine Z. explains, “Gluten does not pertain to weight loss as it is found in most carbohydrate-dense and thus calorie-dense foods. People believe that cutting out gluten will result in weight loss when it is the cutting out of food itself, for example bread and bagels, that results in weight loss.” With this diet, people substitute their foods containing gluten for snacks and treats that don’t contain gluten, because they believe these foods are healthier. However, what they don’t know is that many processed foods that are gluten-free contain more sugar and fat, thus leading to weight gain.
After some students eliminated gluten from their diets, they claimed that they were less bloated and felt better. This has led to self-diagnoses of being gluten intolerant. For example, Jericho High School senior Nikki R. is gluten intolerant. She said, “I definitely have more energy, cleaner skin, and overall feel better when I don’t eat gluten.” She thinks the cause for this gluten-free craze is due to people being unaware of nutrition and the reality of their caloric intake. On the other hand, senior Izzy M. is a part of the 1% that has Celiac disease. She feels as though the popularity of going gluten-free is somewhat positive because it has made gluten free products more accessible. She has “struggled in the past” at birthday parties where she couldn’t eat cake, and at dinners with friends in restaurants that had no gluten free food options.
It is essential that people understand that gluten is not the enemy. Hopefully this fad is on the decline because gluten does make food taste good!
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