The other day, one of my clients asked me if going "gluten free" was a good way to lose weight. I get this question almost daily. The diet fad inside the quotation marks will change, but people always want to know if making some radical change to their diet will result in remarkable weight loss.
Maybe it's the belief that a healthy diet that leaves you full and satisfied simply cannot work, but people are always talking about going fat or sugar or dairy or gluten free, in the hope that cutting out one magical ingredient will solve all their weight-loss concerns.
Before we get into the potential benefits of a gluten-free diet for people looking lose weight, I want to specify that people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease should absolutely cut gluten out of their lives. Consuming gluten when your body can't digest it effectively can be painful and dangerous.
But estimates suggest that only 1 percent of the population suffers from celiac disease, and another 10 percent suffer from a less-severe gluten sensitivity. But what about the other 89 percent of us who just want to lose weight?
So, let's get down to it: Does a gluten-free diet help with weight loss?
Yes! But probably not for the reasons you might think.
Most people who go gluten free will lose weight, but not because gluten is an evil ingredient that latches onto your thighs and won't let go. Gluten is a type of protein found naturally in certain grains and used as an added binding agent in processed foods. There's nothing fattening about gluten itself, and gluten isn't causing you to hold on to extra weight around your tummy.
Going gluten free results in weight loss because cutting gluten out of your diet means cutting out a lot of processed foods that are high in fat, sugar, and other unnatural additives. Pizza is off limits if you're gluten free. So are most baked goods. Also pasta, waffles, and beer.
People following a gluten-free diet are also likely to eat significantly less bread, since most varieties contain gluten.
Cutting out heavy grains and processed baked goods is almost guaranteed to make the needle on the scale dip lower.
I like to suggest that people who suspect they are gluten intolerant cut gluten from their diets for 4-6 weeks to see how they feel. Even people who aren't gluten intolerant may find they feel better going gluten free, since so many gluten-containing foods are heavy and can weigh you down. Still, the fact remains that going gluten free should be done for broader health concerns, not simply weight loss.