Ok it’s confession time.
When I first changed my diet for health reasons (I go through this here), I cut out pretty much everything from my diet. I was vegan/plant-based, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and soy-free. Why? Because I read some bad advice, and because that’s what everyone on Instagram seemed to be doing. Both of these are obviously is a terrible reasons to change your diet, and I wouldn’t recommend it at all.
I never had a problem with grains or gluten in the past, but I convinced myself it was making me bloated and gluten was the reason I couldn’t get that flat stomach I desperately wanted (turns out there’s more to life than a perfect stomach 😛 ). I convinced myself and others that this was the right thing for me to do, and even when my family questioned me I just brushed it off.
Looking back, I seriously regret falling into the trap of following “eminence-based” advice rather than evidence-based advice. Today it’s a totally different story. I eat whatever I want, and that includes lots of sourdough bread, cous cous, and using wheat flour in my baking (I can’t begin to stress just how much easier this makes life, seriously).
Gluten is a protein, which consists of two other proteins, a prolamin and a glutelin. In wheat these are usually gliadin and glutenin. Generally, these are the ones that cause issues for some people.
Some people believe that no one should be eating gluten, or even any grains at all, regardless of whether you’re coeliac or not. Quite frankly, I think that’s just BS. Why you would voluntarily and unnecessarily deprive yourself of wonderful things like bread is beyond me. Most people (please note: not all!) who claim things like bread and pasta make them bloated have simply overeaten – which is seriously easy to do when you go to a restaurant and order a big delicious bowl of pasta. If even a slice of bread on an empty stomach makes you bloated and unwell, then by all means I recommend avoiding it!
The Paleo diet has been getting a lot of attention, and is apparently the most Googled diet this year. Paleo advocates usually don’t eat any grains at all, claiming that we haven’t adapted to our agricultural diet and should eat like cavemen. Ah, those good old cavemen days when most children died in infancy and people didn’t live past 40 due to terrible and unstable living conditions. Such a shame we now have easy access to food and healthcare and sanitation, etc. etc.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not a big fan, and not just because you’d have to pay me a hell of a lot of money to give up my avocado toast. Of course we have adapted to our agricultural lifestyle. Just as an example, many people have extra copies of genes for digesting the starch found in grains.
A gluten-free diet is not always a healthier diet. Gluten free packaged products tend to have more added fat and sugar to compensate, and from a psychological perspective, if it’s stopping you from being able to go out with family and friends that’s not healthy either. On the other hand, eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates isn’t healthy either, whereas eating whole grains gives you a wonderful source of fibre and protein (gluten is a protein after all). It’s all about balance!
I’ve started with personal anecdotal evidence, so now I’ll finish with it too: I eat wheat and gluten every day now, and both my physical health and relationship with food have never been better. Oh – and I managed to get that stomach I wanted too!
The message I really want you to take home, is just because someone with a lot of followers is doing something, or you read one book, or saw one article, that’s not a good enough reason to change your diet. Think, question, experiment, and then decide for yourself what you think is best.
This rant was inspired by many months of Instagram observing, but triggered this week by this amazing article from New Scientist, which I definitely recommend you read!