Low-carb Diet or Gluten-free: What’s the Difference?

In 2012, the gluten-free industry was valued at $4.2 billion.  Why is there an increase in demand for gluten-free products?  Is this a new diet trend that everyone should try?

The last two weeks, I’ve written about gluten, Celiac Disease, and wheat allergies.  To close out this three-part series, I will share more about the gluten-free diet trends.  Many people assume that a gluten-free diet is a new weight-loss trend and relate it to a low-carbohydrate diet.   Let’s take a look at the difference between gluten-free and low-carb.

A gluten-free diet does eliminate certain grains (wheat, barley, and rye), and this is important for anyone diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  However, those grains are not the only sources of carbohydrates.  Other carbohydrate sources include corn, rice, quinoa, vegetables, fruits, milk, and other items containing sugar or starch.  Just because your diet excludes gluten-containing grains doesn’t mean that you are necessarily eating fewer carbohydrates.  Switching to a gluten-free diet might lead to some weight loss, but this is likely due to an overall limitation of calories and not because gluten is harmful or fattening.

Many dieters tend to think of carbohydrates, grains and wheat in particular, as an enemy to be avoided.  The truth is that you need carbohydrates to supply energy for your body.   The important thing to look out for is where you are getting your carbohydrates.  Complex carbohydrates found in vegetables, cereal, rice, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds provide energy for your body and also carry important vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Simple carbohydrates are found in foods like fruit or table sugar.  The simple sugar in fruit is called fructose, and it has a relatively low concentration in fruit so the calories are not too high.  Moreover, fruit is a good source of water and vitamins.  Table sugar found in so many of our sweets only adds empty calories with no nutritional benefits.

If you are trying to lose weight, it’s important to continue eating balanced meals with fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy.  You can lower your total caloric intake, but be sure to get plenty of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber.  It’s also a good idea to add exercise to your routine.

Remember, a gluten-free diet is only necessary for people diagnosed with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance.  While it may be trendy, going gluten-free isn’t the best way to diet.  The tried and true way to lose weight is through exercise and healthy eating. Check out the nutrition guidelines for eating healthy at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/.

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