7 Surprising Things That Happen When You Go Gluten-Free

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Maybe you’ve been suffering from unexplained symptoms for years and you’ve finally gotten an answer from your doctor: Celiac disease. But for every person diagnosed with this condition (an immune system reaction to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye) many more show signs of gluten sensitivity. One of the easiest ways to find out if you feel better when you’re not eating gluten is to give it up for a while. And with the tremendous variety of gluten-free foods on the market today, that has never been easier. If you’re curious, there’s no harm in trying out a gluten-free diet—and there can be some surprising upsides. Here are a few.

 
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You lose a few pounds.
Cutting gluten is not a magic bullet diet. In fact, lots of gluten-free foods are high in calories and carbs, so it pays to be careful when making the switch. But for many, cutting gluten goes hand in hand with eating a variety of healthier, lighter foods—like swapping a gluten-free Chex cereal and fresh fruit for starchy standbys like bagels at the breakfast table. The result? The numbers on the scale might just take a dip.

Your skin looks (and feels) great.
A common complaint among the gluten sensitive is skin rashes, itchy hives, and unexplained breakouts. If you’re among them, you might enjoy newly calm, clear skin with your new diet.

Your culinary repertoire expands.
No more wheat, barley, and rye doesn’t have to mean no more grains at all. You can answer your grain-cravings with a wide variety of nutrient-rich whole grains you may not have considered before—such as quinoa, amaranth, and millet. All can be baked into breads, added as fillers to meatballs or stews, enjoyed with vegetables as a side dish or sweetened and cooked as porridge at breakfast.

You make healthier choices overall.
Sure, the grocery store abounds with gluten-free convenience foods these days, but dropping your old routine can inspire you to buy more whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, and get really creative in the kitchen. Fewer processed foods equals better health.

You save some money, too.
The other side effect of cleaning up your diet? You often get to keep more money in your wallet. Many healthy, tasty home-cooked meals are as fast as having takeout delivered and almost as easy—and if you’re a strategic shopper (clipping coupons, buying ingredients in season, shopping for whole grains and nuts in bulk) they can cost a lot less, too.

You’re not a food pariah.
It’s a common fear of the newly gluten-free. Can I go out to eat? Is my life as I know it over? Sure, you have to be a little more discerning about restaurant menus than before, but chefs and major food brands have never been so aware of their customers’ dietary needs, and they are responding with all kinds of delicious gluten-free creations—many so good your gluten-eating friends will happily indulge right along with you. Spaghetti and meatballs made with brown rice pasta is just as delicious, we promise. Cider tastes as good as your favorite beer (some breweries are even producing gluten-free beers these days). Party mix made with Rice and Corn Chex, nuts, and gluten-free soy sauce is every bit as tasty as the original recipe.

You are bursting with energy.
If you are among the gluten-sensitive, your energy levels might be sagging. Cutting out the offending protein and improving your digestive health won’t fix this overnight, but in time you may see a big difference: better sleep at night, and less reaching for the coffee mug to make it through the day.

If you’ve gone gluten-free, what changes have you’ve noticed?


Image ©iStock.com/Danil Melekhin


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