Gluten free diet – harmful or harmless

by Sanjeev Kapoor

It is not a hidden fact that the culinary world has experienced infinite changes in the past few years. Along with that, lifestyles, eating habits and health preferences of people have also taken new turns. Even our digital space is flooded with debates about trending diets, health foods and other nutritional gyaan. When it comes to fad diets picking between gluten and gluten free has always been a sticky ground, quite literally. But, whether or not you want to opt for a diet free of this sticky protein should really be a well informed decision. Let’s explore what is gluten and how is it good or bad for you?

What is ‘gluten’ and why does one go gluten-free?

Gluten is a protein, rather a mix of 2 types of protein found in certain grains like wheat, rye, barley and some types of oats. Interestingly, the word gluten itself is derived from the Latin word – glue, for the simple reason of its sticky texture. As you know, grains like wheat are quintessential in our Indian cuisine and have been a part of our diets since ages. The flatbreads like paranthas or phulkas are prepared with whole wheat flour which we consume on a daily basis. The question is why does anyone go gluten-free? Well, we have found the answer and you should definitely know it.


The reasons can vary from person to person, but the most common problems associated with it are wheat allergies, celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

  • Wheat allergy: This is an allergy which can be experienced by smelling or consuming wheat products. Symptoms include swelling, itching, irritability in the mouth, throat, hives, rashes, nausea, etc.
  • Celiac disease: This is a disease associated with severe gluten intolerance and can cause damage to the small intestine in the long run. Symptoms include diarrhoea, bloating, fatigue, anaemia, headache, abdominal pain, etc.
  • Gluten sensitivity: There might be times when you test negative for celiac disease and do not experience any wheat allergies but you might still experience discomfort after consuming gluten. This is because your body is sensitive to gluten and this condition is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms may include joint pain, headache and tiredness.

Foods to avoid in a gluten-free diet: Bread, pasta, wheat, barley, bulgur, rye, oats, cracked wheat, couscous, emmer, cereals, etc. 

Foods to include in a gluten-free diet: Quinoa, millet, rice, sorghum, buckwheat, amaranth, vegetables, fruits, seafood, meat, corn, beans, seeds, nuts, dairy products, chicken, fish, etc.


Is ditching gluten good for everyone?

Though, we have understood in depth about the conditions and diseases that are associated with gluten intolerance but the bigger question still remains, is gluten unsafe for everyone? According to experts in the health and wellness sector, people who are not experiencing any discomfort or stress can include gluten foods in their diets without any worries. But there’s another theory that suggests to avoid gluten even if you’re not suffering from any diseases or intolerance. It is said that cutting out gluten can actually help you feel better sometimes. And, you can easily gain the similar nutrients from a lot of other gluten-free foods which you have been relying upon all these years. Another research also suggests that a lot of people may not be aware about their intolerance towards gluten and the tests may not be 100% reliable. So, the best way to know that, is to avoid gluten and monitor your body to derive an honest conclusion.


Bottom line: Gluten, good or bad?

Going gluten free due to allergies or intolerance towards it is necessary for some people. Otherwise, we might not know whether going gluten-free is a health fad, a passing trend or a health choice for you. But, what we do know is that cutting out gluten is not at all harmful for anybody on this planet because there’s a list of gluten-free foods which can provide you the required nutrition. Though, today’s data on gluten and body health is a little unclear and erratic but the research is constant. Other than that, there is no one universal rule that works for each and every individual when it comes to health. We all have different bodies and the needs of our bodies also vary from one another. Hence, the first step is to understand your bodily requirements and act accordingly. Gluten or gluten free – know what makes you and your body feel better and follow it.


Also, we desis have never been in dearth of anything! While across the world people are modifying their recipes to make them gluten free, in India we have tons that are already free of gluten. Most of the sabzis, rice preparations and mithais are free of gluten. When it comes to flatbreads, if you can’t eat a traditional wheat roti, bhakris, thalipeeths and good ol’ makki ki roti comes to the rescue.

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.