Giving Up Sugar, Gluten or Dairy? What You Need to Know

There are a lot of reasons why you might be tempted to remove gluten, dairy or sugar from your diet. Maybe you want to lose weight, increase your energy or get rid of symptoms you think are caused by a food sensitivity. But is ditching an entire food group really the way to go? Keep reading to find out if there are actual benefits to removing these foods from your daily diet or if it’s just another trend that’s not backed by science.

Getting rid of gluten

People who experience fatigue, itchy skin or digestive issues might blame foods like pasta, bread and baked goods. That’s because they all contain the protein gluten, which can cause those symptoms if you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease. While going gluten-free can help eliminate symptoms like bloating and cramping if you have an allergy or sensitivity, having an intolerance is actually pretty rare. In fact, celiac disease only affects about one percent of the population. For everyone else, cutting out gluten can make you miss out on whole grains—a great source of fiber and antioxidants.

A better plan: Skip foods made with white flour (look for 100% whole wheat flour in ingredient lists).

Doing away with dairy

If you’re one of the 30 million Americans with some form of lactose intolerance, eliminating dairy from your diet can help you avoid symptoms like bloating, cramps, diarrhea and gas. But even people without those symptoms might be tempted to avoid foods made from milk in the hopes of losing weight. While dairy is found in high-fat foods like ice cream and cheese, it also contains calcium and vitamin D, two nutrients essential for bone health and strength.

A better plan: If you don’t have a medical reason to avoid dairy, keep incorporating healthier low-fat options, like low-fat cottage cheese or low-fat Greek yogurt.

Saying “see ya” to sugar

Desserts might be delicious, but if you’re trying to drop pounds, cutting out extra and added sugars will help. It makes sense: Added sugar has no nutritional benefits and supplies empty calories. When you eat too much of it, you raise your risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. A sweet treat every now and then can keep you from feeling deprived, ultimately helping you stick with a healthy diet.

A better plan: Include healthy carbohydrates daily with natural sugars, such as fruits. Beware of added sugars and know your limits. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories per day of added sugar (about 6 teaspoons) for women and 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons) for men. Just remember: Added sugar isn’t just in cookies and candy, it’s also in sweetened beverages, yogurts, salad dressings and snacks. Check out the label if you aren’t sure what’s in a food.

 

Photo credit: Andrei Niemimäki

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