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Breaking down the gluten-free trend with Allie Henrie

SALT LAKE CITY — In a few short years, gluten-free food has moved from the back of specialty health food stores to the front of popular consciousness. The gluten-free diet is no longer reserved for those suffering from celiac or autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s, but prescribed to treat everything from obesity to depression. It’s among the trendiest of diets right now, and gluten-free meals are readily available in most restaurants and grocery stores.

But the answer to the critical question — does it work, and for whom? — remains murky.

Allie Henrie, a registered dietitian at Total Health and Fitness, says most people adopt a gluten-free diet in a misguided attempt to target simpler problems.

“[Gluten] is not inherently bad for you in any way,” Henrie told Maria Shilaos on Let’s Get Moving with Maria last week. “But with there being an increase in the awareness and the diagnosis of people with celiac disease, it’s at the forefront of people’s minds.”

The gluten protein is found in wheat, oats, barley and rye, making it most present in carbohydrate-heavy foods. Coincidentally, carbohydrates are also the main component of most dieters’ so-called “problem foods.”

“Carbs are a pretty common enemy when it comes to weight loss,” Henrie said. “I think that’s where the trend stems from — we try to target one particular thing that’s causing our problems regarding health or weight, and if we get rid of it, then naturally we think that that was the ultimate culprit.”

“Maybe it wasn’t necessarily gluten,” she continued. “Maybe it was the fact that we were eating excessive amounts of these carb-heavy foods that happen to contain gluten.”

Henrie isn’t advocating for listeners to cut out carbs altogether; rather, she encouraged them to consume mindfully.

“Carbohydrates aren’t bad for you, we all need them to survive. But too much of anything is not going to be a good thing,” she said. “It’s all about balance.”

Ultimately, though, gluten-free eating is an unnecessarily complicated way to pursue that balance.

“Unless you have something like celiac disease or hashimoto’s, it really isn’t harmful to you,” Henrie said.

You can listen to the full episode here, or subscribe to Let’s Get Moving With Maria here.