December 22, 2020/Nutrition

The Surprising Truth About Gluten-Free Food and Weight Loss

Questions and answers about eating a gluten-free diet

gluten free lunch with lettuce wraps

Gluten-free diets are the latest craze for those looking to lose weight, but what’s the truth? Is gluten responsible for your love handles? The answer is no, but let’s dig deeper as to why with registered dietitian Mia DiGeronimo.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

What is gluten and celiac disease?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and countless processed foods including pasta, breads, and cereals. Some people avoid gluten because they have celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that happens when the body’s immune response to gluten damages the small intestine lining. This can result in abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and weight loss. Some other symptoms of celiac disease include dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy, painful skin rash), anemia, loss of bone density, headaches, fatigue, and joint pain.

Other people avoid gluten because of gluten intolerance. Gluten intolerance mimics symptoms of celiac disease without the immune response.

Is there a connection between gluten and weight loss?

No. There’s absolutely no evidence that simply getting rid of gluten will result in weight loss. But if you eat a gluten-free diet you may make healthier food choices because you’re more aware of how to read food labels.

Eating gluten-free often may cause you to eat more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean meats. These diet changes are often healthier and lower in calories.

“Ditching the double cheeseburger and fries for a gluten-free meal of salad, chicken breast, and potato is choosing a meal that is much lower in calories which can lead to weight loss over time,” says DiGeronimo.

Aren’t all gluten-free foods healthy?

Gluten-free does not necessarily mean healthy because all gluten-free foods are not equally nutritious.

“An apple and a gluten-free sugar cookie are both gluten-free, but their nutrients vary drastically,” DiGeronimo says.

Grocery and health food stores are full of gluten-free cakes, cookies and sweet treats. These foods often are high in sugar and fat, making them dense with calories. Be sure to read those food labels!

I don’t have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Is it safe to avoid gluten?

Absolutely! Some people choose to follow a gluten-free diet merely because it provides structure to eating healthier and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

DiGeronimo says, “It’s safe, but not necessary. Gluten free foods tend to lack certain vitamins/minerals and fiber.”

Just remember to consume a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and legumes to avoid vitamin/mineral deficiencies and promote a healthy weight and lifestyle.

Advertisement

The bottom line

Gluten-free diets are typically consumed by those who are unable to tolerate gluten on a biological level. However, some people choose to follow a gluten-free diet for more healthful eating.

There’s no harm in avoiding gluten, but remember to consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes. Make sure your gluten-free choices are still 100% whole grain, such as buckwheat, quinoa or brown rice.

“You lose weight when you expend more calories or energy than you consume – not by avoiding gluten,” DiGeronimo says.

Diet and exercise are both important components of weight management and a healthy lifestyle. If you want more specific help losing weight, consider making an appointment with a registered dietitian.

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Cajun sweet potato fry wedges
May 23, 2024/Recipes
Recipe: Baked Cajun Sweet Potato Fries

Swap regular fries for these delicious, and nutritious, potato wedges

Healthcare provider talking with patient with overweight in office
May 17, 2024/Weight Loss
The HCG Diet Is Ineffective and Unsafe

The U.S. FDA prohibits HCG use without a prescription — and the hormone isn’t approved for weight loss at all

Juiced fruits and veggies dispensing from a juicer on counter in kitchen
April 24, 2024/Weight Loss
What You Need To Know About Juicing for Weight Loss

Juicing cleanses don’t target fat loss — and you’ll lose important nutrients in the process

Salmon over lentils and carrots
April 15, 2024/Nutrition
Psoriasis and Diet: How Foods Can Impact Inflammation

A well-balanced diet with anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce flare-ups and severity of psoriasis symptoms

Bowl of assorted fruit and bowls of nuts and seeds
The Best Foods To Eat When You Have Breast Cancer

Stay hydrated, opt for fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein — and try to eat snacks and smaller meals throughout your day instead of larger portions

Spoonful of apple cider vinegar
March 27, 2024/Weight Loss
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help You Lose Weight?

The science on ACV isn’t very promising for weight loss or appetite suppression

Counter top with healthy foods and meal prepping
March 11, 2024/Digestive
Living With Celiac Disease? Make Time for Self-Care

It’s more than just avoiding gluten — it’s also important to focus on your mental and emotional health

Flaxseed sprinkled on a salad in a white bowl on a dark wooden table
January 31, 2024/Nutrition
Flaxseed: A Little Seed With Big Health Benefits

Ground flaxseed is full of heart-healthy omega-3s, antioxidants and fiber, and easy to add to just about any recipe

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey

Ad