Can a gluten-free diet benefit healthy people?

Nutritionist Liz Tucker gives her take on whether a gluten-free diet can be beneficial even for those not suffering from coeliac disease

wheat gluten free
Western diets are notoriously high in wheat content Photo: Andrew Gustar/Flickr

Nutritionist Liz Tucker explains why many healthy people can experience positive results after going on a gluten-free diet – but why a nutritious, balanced diet is more important.

Can a gluten-free diet benefit healthy people?

“Coeliac disease is under-recorded so there are some people that have some kind of issue with gluten. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is also now recognised as a medical condition.

“The whole ‘free-from’ thing came about because our diets today are very high in starchy carbohydrates. Our diets are mainly wheat – we eat a lot of cereals, bread, pasta, pizzas… Most of the stuff you get in supermarkets have a large percentage of wheat or cereal in them. There’s nothing wrong with that, wholegrain is brilliant – but the proportion is wrong. Half of your diet should come from a vegetable base, not from a wholegrain base. Our intake of starchy carbs have gone through the roof so it’s out of proportion.

“People sometimes feel better if they go on a gluten-free diet and they ultimately think they’re intolerant to gluten – but if you cut cereal out of your diet, what do you eat? The answer is that you eat nuts, seeds and vegetables and nothing else. So what you’re doing is reducing the empty-calorie type of food and eating more nutritionally-dense food – you had an imbalanced died and now you’ve balanced it out again.

I’m against people just cutting wheat out completely; wholegrain is a very important part of the diet

Nutritionist Liz Tucker

“People are actually choosing to go on a gluten-free diet even if they don’t have health problems, because they just feel better. A lot of that could be down to the fact that the food is maybe better quality, but it’s really that if you don’t eat wheat, you actually eat a more nutritious diet.

“I’m against people just cutting wheat out completely; wholegrain is a very important part of the diet. It’s about proportions, and when you talk about nutrition it’s all about the ratios.”

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