Does Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating Offer a Gluten-Free Diet Plan?
Alyssa Salz | Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
For people with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, gluten-free items can improve their health and help them live a better life. But if you're avoiding gluten without a medical reason, is it healthier or just a fad? At Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating we are focused on following sound nutritional guidance and include a variety of nutritious foods to provide the body with exactly what it needs. Going gluten-free has become a trend among people without celiac disease or gluten intolerance. A common question we get at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating is if we offer gluten-free meal plans. In short, we do not...read on, to find out why.
Many people give up gluten because they think it's a healthier way to eat, but unless you have a medical condition that requires a gluten-free diet we believe it isn't healthier or necessary. Our meal plans include a variety of whole grains, including wheat, rye, and barley; which all are gluten-containing grains. We include a variety of naturally gluten-free grains as well, because, well, variety is the spice of life after all!
Our bodies crave a blend of different foods and by eating a diverse diet we achieve a great balance of vitamins and minerals without getting bored. An individual on a gluten-free diet could still be making poor food choices. What's important for a healthy diet is our overall food choices, not whether they contain gluten or not. If someone was eating a diet filled with processed grains, such as sweets, fried foods, and nutrient-stripped refined grains switched over to a gluten-free diet filled with fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes of course they may have improved health, energy, and weight loss. But the same may be true if they swapped their unhealthy food choices to include a variety of whole grains in addition to a mix of whole, unprocessed foods. The same person could also change their diet to one filled with gluten-free brownies, waffles, and cereals which may contain higher amounts of sugar and fat plus lower amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, leading to a decrease in their overall diet quality.
Research supports the value of a variety of whole grains in the diet. Two large studies following over 2.5 million Americans featured in JAMA Internal Medicine found that a higher intake of whole grains was linked to a lower overall death rate and cardiovascular mortality. Furthermore, studies have found that 2-3 servings of whole-grain foods per day may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and obesity. Many gluten-free products lack fiber, B vitamins, and folate which is found in a variety of complex carbohydrates. Studies have shown that people on a gluten-free diet are more likely to lack these important vitamins and minerals. Also, a study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, which analyzed 1,700 different gluten-free products found that processed gluten-free foods had more fat, saturated fat, salt, and sugar than traditional foods. It is possible to get the fiber you need from other gluten-free grains but it may take a little more planning and awareness.
Certain nutrients and fiber can be lacking on a gluten-free diet due to the processing of gluten-free products and the lack of fortification with vitamins and minerals which happens in their counterpart grains. This includes the following vitamins and minerals: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and iron. Let's look at the role of each of the nutrients for our overall health.
Whole grains are a major source of dietary fiber, which benefits our bowels, lowers cholesterol, aids weight loss, and may help improve blood glucose. Gluten-free products tend to be lower in fiber and often contain more sugar, fat, and calories to make up for the texture and flavor that is lost when gluten is not present. It is possible to get the fiber you need from other gluten-free grains but it may take a little more planning and awareness.
Thiamin, or vitamin B1, is essential for producing energy from carbohydrates and helps to regulate metabolism. Most grains are enriched with thiamin; however, gluten-free grains often are not. Lack of thiamin can lead to fatigue, weak muscles, and nerve damage. Gluten-free sources of thiamin include sunflower seeds, black beans, tuna, and lentils.
Also important for energy production and metabolism, riboflavin, or vitamin B2, can be lacking in a gluten-free diet. Riboflavin also works as an antioxidant to protect against free radicals. Without adequate intake, you could be left with dry, flaky skin, and vision problems. This vitamin is also added to enriched grains, but can also be found in eggs, meat, and nuts.
Niacin helps your body use sugar and fatty acids and has an important role in enzymatic functioning throughout the body. Like thiamin and riboflavin, niacin has a key role in metabolism, energy production, and cell growth. For individuals who include adequate protein-rich foods in their diet a deficiency is unlikely, but for those on a gluten-free diet who are lacking adequate protein, niacin may become deficient. Including fortified grains, meat, poultry, fish, beans, and peanut butter can help you meet your goals.
Folate can be found naturally occurring in many foods making a diverse, well-planned diet important for those that are not including foods that are fortified with folic acid in their diet. Folate is essential for making new body cells, protecting changes to the DNA related to cancer, and forming hemoglobin to prevent anemia. Folate has also been linked to lower risk for heart disease and delivering a baby with brain or spinal cord defects. Fruits, beans and peas, lentils, nuts, and many vegetables are good sources of naturally occurring folate.
Many food items are enriched or fortified with iron but there are plenty of sources that are naturally high in iron. While on a gluten-free diet it is again possible to have adequate iron intake but it is necessary to make a conscious effort to plan meals accordingly. When the diet is short on iron it can leave you feeling tired and weak and may also lead to difficulty concentrating and a weakened immune system. Animal products contain heme iron which is better absorbed and utilized than nonheme iron found in plant sources.
By combining fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, lean proteins, nuts, and a variety of whole grains our bodies can get the most out of our food to function and feel its best without any unnecessary restrictions. While we are not minimizing the importance of a gluten-free diet for those with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, we fully recognize the vital role a gluten-free diet has for this small percentage of people. The research reveals very little evidence that following a gluten-free diet offers any health benefits for those outside of the 1% with medical reasoning to have these restrictions. Our meal plans at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating include some naturally gluten-free meals and all of our products are portion controlled so if you are gluten-sensitive and need to cut back on the amount of gluten in your diet, our plan may be just right for you.
At Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating we are committed to sound, factual nutritional recommendations. We understand that many people have decided to go gluten-free based on little to no evidence or medical recommendation, but due to a nutritional fad. As with all fad diets, weight can be lost when certain foods are restricted but often weight loss is not maintained when someone returns to a normal pattern of eating. We commit to providing you a diet that will help you lose weight for good and feel better without any unnecessary food restrictions.
No gimmicks. No unnecessary restrictions. No flavorless meals. Just living life delicious!