Is a Gluten-Free Diet Really Healthier?

Hello Everyone,

My name is Andrea Green and I completed my dietetic internship at London Health Sciences Centre. As part of my internship I did a rotation at the Perth District Health Unit to gain some experience in public health.

Throughout my internship many clients have asked me about fad diets. The gluten-free diet is one that has been growing in popularity over the past few years. Many celebrities promote the diet however there isn’t any scientific evidence to support the claims that a gluten-free diet is healthier for the general population.

What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It is the portion of flour that helps bread and other baked goods stick together so that they don’t crumble.

Who Needs to Follow a Gluten-Free Diet?
For people with celiac disease it is imperative that they follow a strict gluten-free diet because a small amount of gluten can cause damage to their intestines.

If you think you might have celiac disease it is really important to see a doctor and get tested before you try the gluten-free diet. For the test to be accurate, you have to have gluten in your diet for about 6 months before you get tested.

There are about 7 million people across Canada who follow a gluten-free diet but the majority of these people do not have celiac disease or any medical reason for eliminating gluten.  Many people believe it is healthier or that it will help them lose weight.

There is no evidence to support the claims that a gluten free diet will help you lose weight and in fact most of the processed gluten-free foods lack important vitamin, minerals and fibre. 

The Many Benefits of Whole Grains
Whole grains are a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. For a healthy diet, you should try to make at least half of your grain products whole grain and enjoy a variety of whole grains such as barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa and wild rice.

How Do You Know If You Are Eating Whole Grains?
In Canada there are no regulations for using the term "whole grain" on product labels. That means that a company can use the term "whole grain" even if there is only a very small amount in the product. To make sure that you are getting a good source of whole grains, check the ingredient list and it should be the first ingredient listed. Look for "whole grain whole wheat flour", “whole rye”, “whole oat” or “oatmeal”, “whole barley” and other grains that start with “whole”.

Below is a recipe for muffins that I love! They are whole grain and a great source of fibre!

Raspberry Almond Muffins
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup ground almonds
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt (not fat-free) 
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • ½ cup chopped or sliced almonds
  • 12 whole almonds


  • Preheat oven to 375°F and butter non-stick muffin pans or line it with paper liners.
  • You can buy ground almonds at the grocery store or you can make your own by throwing whole almonds into a food processor and grinding them until they form a powder

  • Whisk together ground almonds, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt 
  • In another bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, milk, yogurt, vegetable oil and vanilla.  
  • Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and add raspberries and chopped/sliced almonds. Stir just until moistened.
  • Spoon into muffin pan and lightly press an almond onto the top of each.

  • Bake for about 25 minutes or until the tops are firm to the touch. Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.


Recipe from the 2014 Milk Calendar


  1. So glad to see you address this issue.

  2. I would argue that processed foods of any kind aren't a great choice. However, if your take on gluten free eating means to eat more whole foods, fresh veggies and fruit, meats and dairy then you will be healthier overall and likely see some benefits in the weight department too.

    1. Thanks for your comment and I would agree with you that any diet that promotes whole foods (vegetables and fruit, unprocessed whole grains, milk and milk alternatives, meat and meat alternatives) would be beneficial. However, this is often not what we see people doing. People choose a diet like gluten-free and then choose gluten-free snacks like cookies and brownies and think they are healthier. In my option a brownie is a brownie whether it’s a regular one, a low fat one, a gluten-free one or one made with black beans.

      If you have been prescribed a therapeutic diet to help treat a medical condition it is always recommended you follow the advice from your doctor and dietitian.

      Shannon RD


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