British Columbia

Gluten-free diets are not always healthier, warns celiac disease expert

“I see many people gaining weight when they go on a gluten-free diet," says registered dietician Shelly Case.

Registered dietician says some gluten-free foods are rich in sugar, fat, and have less fibre and vitamins

Mainstream food producers are now creating gluten-free alternatives, including Rice Krispies Brand Gluten Free. (Matthew Mead/Associated Press)

Gluten-free diets are not for everyone — and they may actually be less healthy for those who don't need to avoid gluten, says a registered dietician who specializes in celiac disease.

The Gluten Free Expo will be held at the Vancouver Convention Centre Jan. 16 to 17, featuring hundreds of gluten-free products.

But while it has become a trend for many to go on gluten-free diets in an attempt to lose weight or eat healthier, there is no evidence for either, according to Shelly Case, a registered dietician and a member of the medical advisory board for the Celiac Disease Foundation.

"I see many people gaining weight when they go on a gluten-free diet," Case told B.C. Almanac host Gloria Macarenko.

"If you look at the nutritional composition of a lot of the gluten-free products some are very healthy, but a lot of them have more sugar, more fat, and hence more calories and they're not enriched with iron, and B vitamins and a good source of fibre like a lot of the gluten-containing — especially the whole-grain — products.

She also said that many of the gluten-free breads are, for example, made with white rice flour, tapioca or corn and potato starch, which are low in fibre, iron and B vitamins."

"As a dietician I need to work with people who have gone on a gluten-free diet to show them what are some healthier ways to eat gluten-free.

Look for natural gluten-free foods

Case said that for those who can't eat gluten, she recommends looking first at all the foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as:

  • Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, milk, yogurt, cheese. "Most of those are naturally gluten-free, unless they've been processed and have other ingredients added to them."
  • Gluten-free breads and cereals with some source of fibre and vitamins, i.e. those containing whole grains, pulses, brown rice flour, quinoa, flax etc.
  • Gluten-free oats that have been grown and processed in an area free of wheat, rye or barley (which contain gluten).

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Gluten-free diets aren't for everyone, celiac expert says


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