Food Is Not Your Enemy

Should You Go Gluten-Free to Lose Weight?

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, seems to be our current food devil—the thing that’s allegedly causing all our weight and health problems. Avoid bread! Avoid pasta! Avoid beer! You’ve probably heard or read all of these exhortations somewhere.

For some people, gluten is indeed a very real problem. Sufferers of celiac disease will see serious damage to their small intestines if they consume any food containing gluten. And many other people who may not have full-blown celiac disease are truly gluten-intolerant—if they eat gluten regularly they may find themselves with chronic digestive problems, joint pain, brain fog, debilitating fatigue, or thyroid issues. Cutting gluten out of the diet for these people can be life-changing. I’ve seen it happen with many of my clients.

But if you’re healthy and not experiencing any of the symptoms of gluten intolerance, there is really no reason to cut gluten from your diet. I would argue that some people who cut gluten lose weight not because of the absence of gluten, but because they are avoiding junky food made primarily of white flour. If you stop eating calorie bombs like bagels, donuts, muffins, and the Olive Garden’s never-ending pasta bowls, then you’ll likely lose weight. It’s not the removal of gluten that made the difference, it was the reduction of calories and poor-quality foods that led to your weight loss.

So if you want to lose weight, it’s really better to think of white flour as the problem. Whole wheat and other whole grains containing gluten (especially if they are high-quality organic grains) can be a very healthy part of our diets, and shunning them in favor of white rice, for instance, won’t necessarily help you reach your weight and health goals.