Never before has there been so much confusion and controversy about gluten, flour and carbs. We see so many foods labelled “gluten free” that it’s made us question whether this thing called “gluten” is something we should all be avoiding? Allow me to clarify.
The truth about gluten
Gluten itself is not bad. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and in both, healthy carbs like sprouted grain bread, and more refined unhealthy carbs like doughnuts. Some people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity can have a reaction to gluten and of course, these people should avoid gluten, but for the rest of us, gluten should be just fine.
The truth about carbs
We all need carbs to give us energy and to fuel exercise. There are both healthy and unhealthy carbs. Healthy carbs like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sprouted grain bread, steel cut oats and sweet potatoes contain important nutrients like fibre, protein, B vitamins, iron, zinc and magnesium. Unhealthy carbs like white bread, white rice and cereal bars are made from highly refined flour that removed the nutritious germ and fibrous bran and are lacking these nutrients. Beware that gluten free foods are often not as nutritious as whole grains because they are often made from a refined white rice flour that has no fibre, protein or minerals.
The glycemic index
Here’s a new term that is more meaningful than gluten free: The glycemic index (GI) defines how quickly a food releases sugar into your body. High GI foods like an iced mocha drink spike your blood sugar much like how kindling fuels a fire, but then burns out quickly, leading to another sugar craving. Low GI foods like whole wheat pasta provide a steady release of sugar, much like how a log fuels a fire for a long time. Choosing low GI carbs that are high in fibre and protein and low in sugar will give you lasting energy to sustain you past afternoon cravings and well into your evening jog. Great choices include: Quinoa, brown rice, steel cut oats, sprouted grain bread and fresh fruit.