Can a gluten-free diet be harmful?

Every day more people learn about the benefits of eating gluten-free for weight loss or general health. But is a diet devoid of gluten really beneficial to those who do not have to follow it for health reasons? The jury is still out on that one, as gluten-related research is still relatively new. But can a gluten-free diet be downright detrimental to your health?

It is not a lack of gluten, which is simply a combination of two proteins, in your diet that gives cause for concern. It is a lack of fortification of certain gluten-free products with folic acid (folate). In 1996, the FDA made it mandatory for many grain products to be fortified with this vitamin B to prevent serious birth defects caused by folate deficiency in pregnancy. The same requirement does not apply to gluten-free foods at this time.

Whether you have to or want to be gluten-free, I recommend asking your doctor to test your vitamin levels at least annually. I am a strong believer in getting all your nutrients from a varied and balanced diet. Good food sources of folic acid are leafy green vegetables, black-eyed and green peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, avocado, broccoli, kidney beans, and peanuts. However, if you are clinically deficient in this or any other nutrient or you are a woman of a child-bearing age, consult your doctor about taking the necessary supplements.

For more information on folate, visit: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/.

Image: Gluten Free tag at New World | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.