Are Paleo, Gluten Free, Grain Free Diets a Fad? Healthy or Not Healthy? My Thoughts…

I decided it would make perfect sense for me to post about My Favorite Whole Wheat Recipes, and then follow it up the next day with a post about avoiding wheat and/or grains altogether. I like keeping you on your toes.

Coconut_Flour_Muffin

Seeing as the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle includes an entire section on Special Diets, I thought this might be a good time to address my thoughts on eating a gluten free, grain free, or paleo diet. Let’s chat, shall we?

A few weeks ago, I got this email from Deb:

I am just wondering what you think about all the gluten free, etc. rage? Some of my friends truly have celiac, but most just seem to be trying this as more of a fad, way to lose weight, etc. Don’t you think that the reason that they feel better is because they give up processed junk and sugar, not so much because of the actual gluten?

We just had a missionary stay with us from Australia, she is originally from Taiwan and has lived in Kenya as well. She says that Americans are the only ones who take supplements and vitamins and have all these food allergies. She thinks it is ridiculous to eat at McDonalds, then buy vitamins. She stayed with us 2 weeks and it was very interesting, even if she was out and about, she would NOT get fast food, she would go to the grocery and buy fresh meat and vegetables and come home and cook it, even though it costs more and was more time consuming. Also, a lot of my friends that are on these EXTREME diets cheat half the time anyway, so what is the point?  

Ah yes. I too have watched people go from eating a basic diet of donuts, chips, fast food, and skittles – to eating a low fat or low-carb diet. They lose weight, feel better, and swear that the key is to cut out carbs, grains, gluten, eggs, beef, or butter.

Hey, hey, hey. Them’s fightin’ words to this girl. Nobody better be blaming my butter or beef on their poor health! Especially when we’re talking about the kind that comes from cows who are raised in a healthy environment. But enough about my beloved bovines. What is the healthiest way for all of us to eat?

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I hate to disappoint you, but I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all diet.  I believe real food, in balance, based on what your body can tolerate and thrive on is the right diet for you. Learn to listen to your body, and nourish it.

I love my beef, and in fact, I believe I personally need quite a bit of (grass fed, if possible) red meat in my diet in order to maintain a healthy level of iron in my body. You might not need much or any beef. You may not need much of any variety of meat. Okay by me – that means more cow for this girl. Learn to listen to your body, and nourish it.

While some can’t tolerate grains or gluten, I can. I can’t eat them in large amounts, and in fact, I believe most of us should cut back on the grains just to make more room in our diet for fruits and vegetables Learn to listen to your body, and nourish it.

Here are my Paleo, Gluten Free, and Grain Free thoughts in a nutshell:

  • When you give up processed foods and instead eat more wholesome, nourishing foods, you will feel better and look better.  This has very little to do with the fact that the food might be gluten free, paleo, or grain free.
  • If you truly are allergic to a certain food or if a food makes you sick, by all means, you should not eat it.  You might want to check into NAET though. It is possible to re-program our bodies so that they no longer reject certain foods as allergens. My boys and I have experienced this, and it works. Where we used to have food allergies, we no longer do, praise God!
  • A Gluten Free label does not automatically make a food healthy.
  • Cutting down on grains is beneficial, especially if the majority of what you eat is grainy. Our bodies need a better balance, and grains can be difficult to digest. Bready foods should not be our main nourishment focus.
  • If we’re cutting down our grains, we should not replace them with loads of almond flour and coconut flour. I believe these flours are fantastic additions to our diets, and wonderful to use in baking – especially if your body can not tolerate grains. But to eat them by the pound every day? Well, what happened to balance?

Paleo, Gluten Free, and Grain Free diets can be healthy and beneficial. But if you’re focused on cutting out foods for the wrong reasons, and not focused on overall body nourishment – you’re right back where you started.

Share with me what you have found is best for you and your family when it comes to eating gluten and grains. Do you eat them? What grains are your favorites?

Comments

  1. Sandy says

    It is worth for me to eat grain free, in addition to egg/dairy free. My health, my daily stamina and strength requires that I avoid them.

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    Laura Reply:

    So glad you found what works for you! A friend of mine has found the same thing and is so thankful (though she misses whole wheat baking). :)

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  2. Beth says

    My son and I are doing the SCD diet (no grains, no sugar, no starch) out of necessity for him- he had severe IBS. So I’m thankful he is finally growing again and healthy. I did it to support him and was surprised how much better I feel on the diet. We’ve been on the diet for 2 years and I’ve begun to slowly introduce new foods to see how we handle it. Surprisingly, he can handle potatoes and I can’t. (I never had a problem before). Then we tried flour, and we both got migraines. This makes me wonder… I never had any trouble with flour before, but after not having it for 2 years it causes migraines. I’m wondering if by completely eliminating certain foods I did a dis-service to myself because now my body can’t handle even a little bit. Or did I maybe have a slight problem before and just didn’t realize it? Something to think about…

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    Laura Reply:

    I’m so glad to hear your son is healthy again! How great of you to join him in this way of eating. It’s amazing what we can learn about our own bodies. Your body may have just been in survival mode before with the grains – I think that’s how mine was before I cut out sugar. Now I can’t even handle one bite of dessert. (a good problem to have…mostly!) :)

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  3. Mary N says

    I think over the years we have all abused our bodies with foods that have caused all kinds of health problems. The Bible tells us of the foods that God designed for us to keep us in good health, but back then the people rejected God’s advise and soon began to get sick. Ezekial lived on what’s now known as Ezekial Bread, but the difference is that now we add leaven (yeast) to all our bread & back in Bible times it was baked as a flat bread. Also Daniel denied the rich foods that the King provided and instead lived on pulse (veggies, grains, etc.) and water. A lot of people rarely drink plain water anymore. Instead it’s all the sugary beverages, pop, koolaid, power drinks, coffee, etc. which do nothing to help us maintain a healthy flora in our intestines. Sally Fallons “Nurishing Traditions” and many other books on cultured foods are available for us to use to try to benefit our health system. I don’t think grains are bad for us, I think it’s all in how we use them. If one thinks about it, they didn’t have refrigerators and all the other appliances we have now and as a rule, those that followed Gods laws on foods were generally healthy. Most foods were fermented or cultured in order to preserve them for later use. We became a society of “fast foods” and everything to fix in a hurry. Boxed meals and the foods on the store shelves are full of products with chemicals and preservatives that do nothing but add toxins to our body which in turn causes health problems. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but this is my feelings on the subject and I’m trying to the best of my ability to change my eating habits. There are diets by the millions out there and in my way of thinking, God is the only one with all the answers. His Word is Truth. We spend a lifetime eating & doing things we shouldn’t and it’s pretty costly to repair the damage we do to ourselves. But like the Bible says, we do things in our youth in ignorance because we don’t know any better. But that can be changed by our persistance in wanting to work on better eating habits to help our bodies. There is so much more to say and do but I’m thankful for all the websites and blogs that one can read and decifer what we think might work for us.

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    Laura Reply:

    Well said. :)

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  4. Joy says

    I think you meant to write “perfect SENSE”.

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    Laura Reply:

    Ha! How many times did I proofread, and STILL miss that one? Thanks. ;)

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  5. Lee Ann says

    I’ve known I’ve had Celiacs for 10 years. While I do appreciate “the fad” (because it does allow me to pick up a gluten free frozen pizza occasionally :), it still doesn’t make for a healthy diet. In fact, it can be worse! There is so much gluten free junk food on the market! It’s not real food and it’s not healthy. When did refined white rice flour become healthier than whole wheat? Not to mention the sugar content. So many of these products have way more sugar in them to attempt to make them desirable. I know there are those of us who HAVE to have a special diet, but for the rest, I believe whole food all the way.

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  6. Lisa says

    Hi!
    Loved this.
    My brothern law has celiac. So he has to avoid the wheat and such.
    I on the other hand don’t but went on that gluten free dairy free( lactose intolerant) sugar free etc etc because of the earaches I was having.
    I did lose 20 lbs and I looked and felt great and it helped my chloestral a tiny bit.
    Presently I’m not on that, gained my weight back BC I have plantar fiscitis from exercising and trying to get back into shape with that condition. But.. I feel good and allowed wheat and some dairy back in. Not all dairy wrecks harvok on me just certain things like yougurt and sour cream or feta cheese( my favorite), but I can drink milk in low amounts. I just recently went off of processed almond milk to see if that was causing the bloating due to carrageenan. I am seeing how this effects my body. If it adds to the swelling and inflammation. I know what I need to avoid for how my body feels. I listen to it .
    Loved how you mentioned that too! We try to eat mostly from scratch not processed as much as I am able, plus generally, it’s cheaper.
    My hubby has high blood pressure. He’s on meds but the doctor wants him on something heavier for chloestral. My hubby did not want to do that so he went onto the dash diet system which is where you avoid high sodium and do not eat processed foods. You are only allowed sodium under 5% in certain products. ( like canned tomotoes, which some have only 1% )It has been working for him and he has lost25 pounds.
    I’m still working on him in not bringing the packaged junk into the house, and to read labels but we’ve come a long way and choosing what works best for our own family and kids and it seems to be working.
    Ps: I love your ww pancake mix!! Now if I can get my hubby to stop buying box mix ! :)
    Lisa xo

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    Kristin Reply:

    In Greece, Feta cheese is traditionally made from sheep’s milk (or a mix of goat and sheep). I know many people with cheese issues, have trouble digesting Cow’s milk cheese, but not sheep or goat. Trader Joe’s sells a wonderful Sheep’s milk feta packed in brine. I have also gotten some fresh from our farmer’s market. It might be worth looking into.

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    Kristin Reply:

    Trader Joe’s and whole foods also sell goat’s milk plain yogurt and I have gotten both sheep and goat’s milk yogurt at our farmer’s market.

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    Lisa Reply:

    Thank you Kristin! I will check that out. I will check out goats milk too at Traders as a substitute for milk. :)
    Goats cheese seem to be fine as I have had it lately.

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  7. says

    This is a great post! I have gone gluten free just because when I eat grains with gluten in them, my body reacts adversely-stomach aches, brain fog,etc so I eat it very rarely (I am willing to have a stomachache every once in a while for a croissant). I have just navigated towards non gluten and replace it with veggies or non gluten grains. I really don’t like gluten free products (minus pasta). I find the bread way too thick. I just ask for anything wrapped in lettuce when it would normally come with bread.

    I totally agree it’s all about the real food! Butter, whole fat milk and beef all the way!

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  8. Pam says

    I would really encourage people to read “What the Bible Says about Healthy Living” by Dr. Rex Russell and watch “Only Real Bread is the Staff of Life” from Sue Becker. The Lord truly explains so much of HIS HEART on the matter through these resources!!!!

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    Laura Reply:

    I second the recommendation for Sue Becker’s lectures! I have learned so much through her!

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  9. Krisha says

    I love your coconut muffins! It’s such a great recipe. Over the years I have discovered, that while I’m not celiac, grains do upset me quite a bit. I struggle with gluten. It doesn’t like me at all. So I do avoid it the best I can. you cannot just substitute GF everything tho. That stuff is riddled with other terrible ingredients.

    I would suggest that everyone get a copy of Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter and then you can begin to understand that while you can tolerate grains, the unseen damage they do on your brain is astonishing! Having a relative in her early 60s get severe dementia has been heartbreaking.

    Trying to cut back on grains and increase healthy fats is definitely a challenge in the modern day and age.

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  10. Kim S. says

    I am gluten intolerant. I do get tired of people saying to me “Well, it’s because you cut out processed foods that you feel better, not the gluten.” Actually this is not true. I have always been a healthy eater, very little processed foods, sugar or junk food and I don’t eat fast food. My mom was the same way always eating very, very healthy and when she was recommended going GF after being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, her RA symptoms went away along with other symptoms she had dealt with for years. I was hoping to not have to go GF myself, but while following a very healthy, whole foods diet, I would end up feeling miserable after eating a healthy, well-balanced meal that included whole grains. I went to my doctor and got tested for Celiac, which came back negative. My GI doctor suggested I try going GF for a couple months and that was when my problems went away. While I now always follow a GF diet, I do buy processed GF foods on occasion. These foods do not bother me the way gluten-filled foods do, so I wholeheartedly believe my body does not process gluten and my improvements to my health are a result of eating GF not just eating healthier as some people say to me.

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    Krisha Reply:

    I have the exact same issue with gluten that you described. My acid reflux is now gone and I do not play nice with gluten at all. It’s amazing what cutting out one item does.

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  11. says

    Excellent Post! Agree whole heartedly. I had some health issues pop up and did the 30 day elimination diet and learned what affects my body and what does not. It was a huge eye opener and my health issues, while not cured, are much better as long as I stay away from things that aggrevate my condition. Due to our experiment for 30 days we have switched to a whole foods approach 90-95% of the time and are both feeling a lot better.

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  12. says

    Laura, I agree with you on your healthy eating outlook. Our family tries to eat whole foods as they are found in nature as much as possible. We aren’t perfect so I try not to stress too much when we are out and about, but at home we keep it close to nature. We have found this to keep us healthy. We have also found that it is much more frugal than eating a processed food diet. Yes, it is more work, but we feel better and enjoy our food more. Fortunately, we don’t have allergies or sensitivities to gluten or grains. We enjoy them daily, but in moderation. Thanks for the post, Laura.

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  13. Terie says

    I have been on the “Wheat Belly” diet, book by Dr. William Davis. It is awesome! (No wheat, no sugar) It recommends whole fat dairy, vegetables, eggs and real food ingredients. I feel so much better and have lost 20 lbs. When I eat food now with wheat/sugar in them, it does a number on my digestive system!!

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  14. Karen says

    Totally agree! I get frustrated by all of the people who eat terribly unhealthy and then decide to go gluten-free, dairy free, you name it, and think that we all should. Like you, we eat healthy whole grains in moderation. Moderation is such a key factor.

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  15. Laura S says

    My husband and I have been on the low-carb Atkins diet for about a year. Our reason for going low-carb was just for weight loss. Boy, did we lose weight! My husband lost 60 pounds and has kept it off.

    The wonderful side benefit was this new way of eating led us to cooking almost all our meals at home and eating a ton more veggies than we ever did before. We have cut out sugar, soda, sweets, etc. I am sure we feel better because we cut out all the processed foods, fast foods, etc. Although I wish we could have just cut those out on our own, we never found a way to stick with that. Having a defined plan that we both agreed on is what made this new way of eating work.

    Now that we are on year 2, we are focusing on improving the quality of our meat and veggies, drinking more water and cutting out artificial sweeteners. This is mainly for good health, not to lose weight.

    I suppose we are that typical family who cut processed foods out with a low-carb plan. Although we may have done things backward or for the wrong reason, I don’t feel bad about it. It works for us and we are healthier because of it. Although it is not for everyone, I am so thankful we finally have found a healthy plan we can stick with.

    Thank you for your posts. Although I don’t use the grain recipes, your focus on healthy eating inspires me.

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  16. Lisa says

    As a person with a lot of food allergies (beef, dairy, eggs, gluten, peanuts, almonds) I was so happy to recently find out that I can tolerate duck eggs! Amazing how the small things in life can bring such joy! It’s all about perspective, attitude and balance! With so many foods eliminated from my diet, I’m finding that my taste has changed and that certain fruits and vegetables taste SO GOOD now! It’s been fun to try new things and experience new tastes and textures!

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  17. Monika says

    We are not gluten or grain free; we just do our best to eat real food. However, we do have an almost-one year old, and I wanted to point out that children under the age of two to three do not make the enzymes they need yet to digest grains. So they do need to be grain-free.

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  18. krista says

    My 3-yr-old son is off gluten and dairy – he’s not technically allergic, but his tummy is much happier without them. My husband and daughter and I can eat anything and everything. If nothing else, I’m grateful for gluten-free/grain-free/paleo diets because so many of the recipes and tweaks are such a great help to me in the kitchen.

    Coconut oil is great sub for butter, and we used plain unsweetened almond milk in place of milk in recipes. And I found a “recipe” for a wholegrain gf flour mix, so I can make a lot of my son’s favorite baked goods without all the white rice flour, and they’re still easy and yummy. We use a lot of your muffin recipes, Laura, or your quick bread recipes in muffin form, and he loves them all. He asks for muffins pretty much every day. :) I have finally gotten to the point where my whole wheat pancakes are a gamble, but my amaranth/buckwheat pancakes are perfect every time. At Christmas last year, I made a pumpkin pie with a crust made of crushed almonds.

    I think it can’t possibly be a bad thing for my whole family to be eating a greater variety of grains in place of just wheat. And because the other grains are more expensive, we eat less of them. And more fresh, whole foods.

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  19. Rita says

    I have been gluten-free for eleven years now because I have celiac disease. I get tired of people thinking that this is a fad diet. Trust me – if I have gluten the results aren’t pretty! My daughters also have celiac so we eat low-carb, no gluten. (Their results for eating gluten are different than mine, but still not pretty!) Also, this is not an allergy for us. It’s an auto-immune disease, like lupis or autism. Just wanted to point that out! Happy healthy eating!

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