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What is gluten free?

A gluten free diet is one that strictly excludes all forms of gluten.  Gluten is the protein found in wheat and related grains, such as rye and barley. 

Who should follow a gluten free diet? 

People with celiac disease are essentially allergic to gluten and they can't allow any amount into their diet, when they do eat gluten it causes an immune response and intestinal damage. Others that should avoid gluten are those with a wheat allergy or nonceliac gluten sensitivity.  However, these disorders account for only 8% of the U.S. population.  

All the millions of other people who are following a gluten free diet don't really have to give it up, but some will benefit from the exclusions and here's why. 

First, many easy to grab, unhealthy foods, like cookies, cakes, doughnuts, and white bread, are all full of gluten.  Simply avoiding those foods will benefit everyone. 

Second, every single person digests food differently and I do believe if you carefully assess with an elimination diet that gluten doesn't agree with you, then you should avoid it. 

For the rest of us, the people that just think it's worth a try for weight loss or some other miracle, it's really not worth the time, money and effort, which would be better spent focusing just eating healthy whole foods whether they have gluten or not, like we do in our Fresh Families meal plan

While gluten free food products are more plentiful than ever, there is no reason to make your life more difficult and lots of healthy foods that have gluten that you would be giving up unnecessarily. 

Eating Well wrote, "Gluten-containing whole grains have also been shown to have beneficial effects on inflammation, blood sugar levels and antioxidant activity, and their consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. In fact, a recent study published in the BMJ that compared gluten consumption to the risk of heart disease in a 26-year study of 100,000 men and women found that participants with the highest level of gluten consumption had a 15 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who ate the least gluten."

If you look at all the research, there is little evidence of any benefit to a gluten free diet and in fact there are many health benefits to be had from gluten containing foods, so think carefully before making the leap. 

Please note, if you think you might be celiac or gluten sensitive, don't go gluten free before seeing your doctor and getting tested, the test is only effective if you have been eating gluten.