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Gluten-Free for All?

Got gluten? You should. A new study suggests that going “gluten-free” may actually raise your risk for type 2 diabetes. A gluten-free diet, meant for a small population of individuals who have Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, became popular despite lack of evidence that it was healthful for most people. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that gives baked goods their texture.

According to Dr. Gen Zong from the Harvard University Department of Nutrition, gluten-free foods are often less nutritious because they lack dietary fiber as well as essential vitamins and minerals. They also tend to be more expensive. His study looked at the health effects of a gluten-free diet on subjects that did not medically need to follow one. In a long-term longitudinal study, scientists observed that most subjects consumed 12 grams of gluten or less per day. In those that consumed higher amount of gluten, the risk of type 2 diabetes over a 30-year span was lower. Fiber intake that comes from grain and cereal products was lower in subjects on a gluten-free diet, which is important to note as it is a protective component for the development of type 2 diabetes. Those subjects in the highest 20% of gluten intake experienced a 13% lower risk of diabetes development than those with the lowest intake of gluten (less than 4 grams).

The bottom line is that if you do not medically need a gluten-free diet, don’t follow one. Include gluten containing, high-fiber whole grains in your diet daily. The U. S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise an intake of 20-25 grams of dietary fiber daily for women and 35-38 grams per day for men. In addition to including a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, which are also excellent sources of fiber, be sure to include fiber from grain and cereal products. Below is a list of common cereal and grain foods and their fiber content:

  • Bran cereal (3/4 cup) 5.5 grams
  • Brown rice (1/2 cup cooked) 2 grams
  • Oatmeal (1 cup cooked) 4 grams
  • Whole wheat bread (1 slice) 3 grams
  • Quinoa (1/2 cup cooked) 3.75 grams
  • Whole grain pasta (1/2 cup cooked) 5 grams
  • Barley (1/2 cup cooked) 6 grams


Nancy Hintze

About the author

Nancy Hintze, originally from St. Louis, Missouri, began her career as a Foods and Nutrition teacher in Lehi, Utah in 2003. At the time she began teaching middle school students about nutrition, she weighed 286 pounds. She quickly became aware that if she expected her students to believe her, she had to be an example of what she taught. Over the course of the next several years, as she eliminated 125 pounds by changing what she ate and how she cooked, Nancy became passionate about sharing her healthy lifestyle keys with her students and their families. Along the journey of her transformation, she also became an avid chef with a zest for good old fashioned food preparation with a modern twist – healthy ingredients and ease of preparation.

Nancy is a licensed Family and Consumer Sciences teacher as well as a certified L.E.A.N Health Coach. She has developed and produced Community Nutrition Fairs, mentored students in the Fuel Up to Play program and accompanied one of her students to represent Utah in the National Fuel Up to Play summit in Washington, D. C. In addition, she has coached individual clients to achieve greater levels of personal wellness. And now we have the privilege of announcing Nancy as our very own Culinary Nutritionist here at Reams.

When she’s not sharing her passion for great eating with others, you can find her in her vegetable garden, or knitting or sewing, reading a great novel, hanging out with one of her 21 grandchildren or on the road in the RV that she and her husband love to travel in.

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