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How vile is gluten, really?

Is gluten actually as detrimental to a healthy diet as it is cut out to be?

How vile is gluten, really?

It is funny how every decade some basic nutritional component is picked up, maligned, debased and then ignored until it becomes a hero again. More like some Indian film protagonist. Carbohydrates, fats, red meat, butter and the likes have all undergone aggressive guillotined treatments and then they have gradually slithered back on our plates.

Gluten seems to be the new antagonist in the picture. It is beastly, agonizing, intolerable and downright villainous.  Or have our minds been conditioned to believe it as such? First things first, gluten is a protein found primarily in wheat and other associated grains like durum, spelt, couscous, rye and barley. And this is the protein that gives us all the chewy, springy well-risen bread loaves and deliciously airy cakes. You will find it in not only grains but also in medicines, salad dressings, cereals and beverages.

As marketers continue to tout the effusive advantages of gluten-less diets, the concept has somehow wrongly been associated with low-carb diets. Since so many palates are being fed now with ‘Gluten-Free’ products it is only but natural to think they are better alternatives. Please understand that Gluten-Free does not mean Low Carb and in most cases they are not better alternatives!

Just because it says ‘diet’ does not make it best friends with weight loss! Neither does omitting gluten from the diet make it any healthier or carry fewer calories. Extremely convincing gluten-free diets have been marketed as a weight loss tool giving birth to yet another ‘Diet Fad.’ In fact, there are many GF products that are processed to make up for the loss of vital nutrients that were ripped off earlier to bring them to this heavenly state. Not to mention that all GF products are ripping your wallet off too!

In the US, 1% of the population suffers from Celiac disease, where the gluten is not digested and ends up being harmful to the small intestine. Apart from this, people can suffer from gluten related allergies, which again are not common. And then there is the ‘Nocebo effect’, as scientists suggest, which implies the power of suggestion meaning that if you think you are getting unwell because of eating something you might as well make it so!

Gluten-free or rather any nutritional ‘free’ marketing campaigns, diets, promos, fads have always done well for food conglomerates and rarely for the consumer. Over the years the brain hacks, maneuvered so invisibly yet convincingly on the average consumer, have changed our crop breed, agricultural specifics, consumer goods export and import, commercial food management, domestic food intake and grocery lists!

It is only but natural for the naïve consumer to fill their tummies with incapacitated food as long as the conglomerates are pacified with their financial inflows. Cooking methods, pots and pans, kitchen gadgets, food – all have been devised or detained in lines with the promoted product rather than the nutritional needs of the individual. About time the individual rises to demand the actual body needs rather than the dictated needs!

– The writer is an avid foodie who blogs on www.capturebyst.com and can be followed on Twitter @capturebyst

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