With changing times, the foods that we are advised to eat and ditch from our diets are also changing rapidly. From avocado gaining the status of a super food to kale being promoted as the healthiest thing you’ll put in your mouth, the nutrition industry has often introduced and withdrawn fads into and from the market.
Two very common food products which made a staple part of our diet until now have recently come under the fire. Dairy comprising of milk and subsidiary products like cottage cheese, cheese, butter and gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley have turned into monsters in the fitness business.
Is it advisable to follow fads blindly and give up on something you’ve been consuming for ages or is there some truth behind demonising these food groups?
Lets us try to make sense of this dairy and gluten controversy
Dairy: white poison or elixir?
The traditional view holds that dairy should be an essential part of your diet and is necessary for bone health and absorption of nutrients like protein, iodine, riboflavin and Vitamin B12. It is also said that growing children require a lot of calcium which dairy products are rich sources of. Dairy products like butter, cheese and ghee are also promoted to improve bone density, reduce the risk for osteoporosis and stabilise blood pressure.
However, the modern view agrees to disagree to the promotion of milk and its subsidiary products as a nutritious food group.
First argument says that it is unnatural to humans to consume milk which is meant for the calves’ consumption as it aids growth. Human beings are not calves and adults definitely don’t need to grow any further so dairy as a necessity can be written off. Even from an evolutionary perspective, milk can be written off as before the agricultural revolution, the only form of dairy homo-sapiens consumed was mother’s milk.
Also, research has shown that 75% of the world is lactose intolerant and cannot break down the enzymes present in dairy products. Consumption of dairy leads to nausea, frequent vomiting and headaches in people who cannot digest dairy. Some studies have also shown that dairy is likely to increase reproductive cancers, especially prostate cancer.
Gluten: is it really a demon?
Gluten is essentially a protein that is present in grains like rye, barley, wheat and malt and is commonly found in foods like bread, pasta and cereal. The word “gluten” is derived from glue because of the protein’s glue –like sticky properties.
It is known to provide no special nutrients and people with celiac disease have an intense reaction to gluten. They develop varying degrees of inflammation which can affect their intestinal tract. Gluten is known to cause degeneration of the intestinal walls and lead to fatigue and varying degrees of anaemia in women. Currently, 1% people in the world suffer from Celiac disease but 80% people who have it don’t experience abdominal symptoms after eating gluten which makes diagnosis very difficult.
Another disease called gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance is more common. There is no specific outcome of this condition but people often experience diarrhea, bloating and stomach pain after consuming food items with gluten. Because there is no way to diagnose gluten insensitivity, it is advisable that you cut gluten from your diet for some time and then re-introduce it to see if you experience any negative effects.
Even for people who don’t suffer from the above two conditions, gluten has been proven be harmful as leads to stool inconsistency, itchy rashes, lower levels of activity, bloating and autoimmune diseases.
The final verdict
Dairy: If you do not experience any negative effects after consuming dairy or dairy products, you can continue consuming it in small amounts. However, if you are lactose intolerant, trying to be vegan or are looking for better sources of nutrients, it is better to ditch the milk for more nutrient dense sources. As we are used to consuming dairy, it might be difficult to give it up all at once but by incorporating alternatives like plant based milk like soy, almond and cashew, one can ensure a constant supply and a better source of nutrients.
However, it is suggested that one should reduce their consumption of dairy or at least source it from trusted sources.
Gluten: While most people believe it is a fad, you are definitely better off without the presence of this protein in your diet and life. In a lot of cases, people have been consuming grain based products for long and believe they aren’t sensitive or allergic to it.
But recent researches have proved that even people who are tested negatively for celiac diseases exhibit gluten issues and corroded digestive tracts. Replacing wheat and gluten laden grains with healthier options like tapioca, sorghum, millet, oats, arrowroot, buckwheat and rice ensures a healthier lifestyle and a more nutrient positive diet.
Written byNiharika Nandi
Niharika Nandi is a media trainee who loves exploring the fields of photography and baking simultaneously. She’s a self-proclaimed professional bathroom singer and believes that caffeine runs through her veins. This adrenaline junkie loves to pen down a million thoughts gushing through her mind at any instant and is very vocal about LGBTQ rights.