Going gluten-free: by choice or by intolerance

By on April 18, 2012

The health trend of going gluten-free seems to be the latest buzz in the world of nutrition, and not just for celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Zooey Deschanel, Victoria Beckham who are publicly on the bandwagon. Gluten-free products are popping up everywhere, including in the cafeteria on Mount Carmel.

There are many reasons to go gluten-free aside from the fact that your favorite celebrities are doing it to lose weight. While leading this lifestyle can be voluntary, others must avoid gluten because of major health concerns.

Gluten is a protein found in grains, including wheat, barley, rye, semolina and spelt. It is commonly used in breads, pastas, sauces, cookies, and processed foods. This means no pizza, flat bread, or hamburger buns. And for those who are truly dedicated, consuming dressings or foods that are not specifically labeled with a little “GF” is off limits.

People who suffer from Celiac Disease, a severe branch of gluten-intolerance, can not have food that has come in contact with gluten through an oven, a server’s glove or utensils for fear of experiencing severe abdominal pain, nausea, and gastrointestinal distress. Because of this, eating food prepared by someone else can be a risky choice for a Celiac.

The Chartwells kitchen is not technically gluten-free, but they do offer a section of food made without gluten. It consists of bread made in Quinnipiac’s Mybready gluten-free bread-maker, bagels, muffins, and occasionally cookies or brownies. Also offered are cereals such as Rice Chex.

Deli meats, brown rice, fruit, and salads without croutons and typical dressings are also an option, however many students who complain about a lack of variety in food already may be overwhelmed by the limitations.

Leean Spaulding, the assistant director of dining services for Quinnipiac, has witnessed the growth in gluten-free students, and says that only 10 to 15 students have confronted the situation.

Freshman Lindsey Hazel’s experience with gluten-intolerance has left her frustrated with campus dining.

“It sucks being allergic while at school. I have to bring my own food almost all the time and eat in my room. Quinnipiac I feel doesn’t offer a great selection and I suffer when it comes to food,” Hazel said.

She also stated that she has visited other schools with entire refrigerators and freezers full of gluten-free products, and wishes there were more readily available options here.

According to Spaulding, the Chartwells’ staff does work to be accommodating. If gluten-free students want something else, it can be added to the menu, but unfortunately they do run at a higher price, she said.

The frustrations felt by people who are gluten intolerant are widespread, but still many people choose to adopt this diet to avoid processed foods and unnecessary carbohydrates.

What most people don’t realize, is that a gluten free diet is not proven to promote weight-loss, and according to the Mayo Clinic’s website it can also cause deficiencies in iron, calcium, fiber, and many other important nutrients.

While it may seem to be a go-to weight loss option for this season’s celebrity trend-setters, the inconvenience of a gluten-free diet, as well the high cost and inconclusive health benefits make it a far less reasonable choice for college students.

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