Can gluten-free ever be . . . good?

Are there every situations where gluten-free foods can actually be healthy for us?

Readers of Wheat Belly and of this blog know that conventional gluten-free foods:

Make you fat–They especially cause visceral fat accumulation, i.e, Gluten-Free Belly.
Spike blood sugar–Few foods can beat the extravagant blood sugar-raising effect of the amylopectin A of wheat . . . except gluten-free foods.
Increase glycation–i.e., glucose-modification of proteins that leads to cataracts, arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes, partially reflected by increased glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c)
Trigger small LDL particles–the number one cause of heart disease in the U.S.
Increase triglycerides
–Likely add to cancer risk–via glycation and inflammation

In other words, processed gluten-free foods made with the usual suspects–cornstarch, rice starch or brown rice starch, tapioca starch, or potato starch–are awful for health. Yeah, yeah, they’re often marketed as a healthy alternative: “gluten-free multigrain bread made with only wholesome ingredients” sure sounds great. But just because they don’t trigger abnormal immune responses to gluten does not mean they are otherwise healthy. In fact, they are the opposite.

So when is “gluten-free” healthy? There are a couple of exceptional examples:

–When naturally gluten-free–Asparagus is naturally gluten-free, as are olives. So are garlic and basil, salmon and shellfish, eggs and avocados.
–When wheat- and gluten-free ingredients are actually healthy. The biggest mistake made with conventional gluten-free products is overexposure to processed carbohydrates. This is why in the Wheat Belly recipes I use ground almonds, walnuts, pecans, coconut flour, ground flaxseed and other ingredients that do not trigger all the undesirable effects of excessive carbohydrates. This simple change means we can eat cookies, cupcakes, and muffins with none of the health-destroying effects of wheat, none of the carbohydrate overexposure issues of conventional gluten-free foods. It means you can have something indulgent like Mocha Walnut Brownies and not feel guilty for an instant, nor gain weight, experience high blood sugars, or trigger small LDL. For those of you who do not need to monitor carbohydrate intake (like children and endurance athletes), then non-wheat gluten-free grains can be healthy, such as buckwheat, millet, and quinoa.

So most gluten-free food solutions are little better than low-tar cigarettes as a solution for smoking. What you want is wheat-free, gluten-free . . . and truly healthy!

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118 Responses to Can gluten-free ever be . . . good?

  1. Carla Flegel says:

    It has been about 2 months of Wheat Belly diet. I am astounded with my results. What prompted me to embark on this was my pain. My muscles were constantly in pain. I felt like my muscles were on fire. There wasn’t a piece of me that did not hurt. And I took 6-8 Ibuprophen a day to try to manage the discomfort and some nights still be up walking the floor in pain. I also had numerous “crisis” events lasting more than a week where my blood pressure spiked as high as 225/115 ( guess I won’t stroke out as I seem to have pressure tested my vessels!)… My doctor suggested a third blood pressure medication and I said WHY is this doing this…adding more drugs just cannot be the answer. I’ve taken cholesterol lowering meds and hypertensive meds since age 40 (17 years ) because I had such a strong family history of cardiac disease. The doctor kept saying it was just bad genes. So within about 2 weeks I had virtually no pain. I haven’t taken an Ibuprophen in weeks. I am no longer hungry all the time. But it is the stunning plummet in my blood pressure that has made me adhere to this change. My blood pressure recently on ACE inhibitor + diuretic was on average 145/95 heart rate 80. Lately my blood pressure is averaging 110/60 and my heart rate 60 on just the ACE , guess we need to eliminate that now too! I’m about to have my blood work checked … I already know it will be improved. I just haven’t enjoyed the weight loss even without any gluten free goodies. I did a “test” with one dinner roll… Within 2 hours Abdominal pain, distension and diarrhea, same with some rice a few days later. It’s hard to believe these results but the numbers speak for themselves. The pain can be subjective but not the recordings! (Although my GP is still skeptical!) Thank you for making this information public!

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Very nice, Carla!

      Your transformation is interesting: relief from some unusual phenomena. You can see why I say that the total is greater than the sum of the parts in this wheat-free world.

      I’d like to post your comments as a blog post. Thanks for sharing your story!

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  3. Cheryl Sandoe says:

    I have a grandson that is allergic to nuts. What healthy substitute can I use for almond flour? I have scoured the Internet and it seems most suggest coconut oil but since that is a tree nut he cannot have that either…can you suggest something? Thank you.

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  7. Mary Wier says:

    Dear Bloggers, my spouse and I went gluten free 2 years ago as we read Wheatbelly book–we had a struggle.
    We are both on type 2 diabetes diets, and we decided to use Udi bread so we could have toast at night and we depended on sucralose, stevia and sweetnlow for our coffee and tea. After we sawDr. Davis on
    Atlanta PBS tv show, we had to review what we were doing! I found 4 bad starches in the bread and also maltodextrin and dextrose in our sweeteners. We are off the bread and are changing to Truvia and Sweet Leaf stevia products. This answers why we have not gotten the weight loss we wanted.We are trying Monkfruit in the Raw now, although it has dextrose. Husband’s glucose was 91 other day after food bar.
    We are adjusting to the Wheatbelly life anew. Thanks to Dr. Davis for being in Atlanta! There is a bread called Paleo bread made with coconut flour but is expensive. I don’t cook much since our dog passed but I am going to try pumpkin muffins from the book for Christmas.