Does a gluten-free diet help you lose weight? Not so much. Gluten free means eating for health, not weight loss.
If you’re forgoing gluten as a way to lose weight... don’t. “The gluten-free diet is not a weight-loss diet,” says Rachel Begun, RD, dietitian and blogger at glutenfreerd.net. “If you follow a gluten-free diet by eating mostly naturally gluten-free foods, then you might experience weight loss—but that’s because you’ve replaced low-nutrient processed foods with fresh, nutrient-dense foods, which is always recommended for weight loss.”
In other words, eliminating gluten means you’ll be cutting out carbs that are often loaded with calories and fat (think cake, pasta, cookies); gluten itself isn’t the culprit. No studies point to losing weight by eating a gluten-free version of a conventional, gluten-containing food that has the same number of calories; in fact, you could gain weight, because some less-healthy gluten-free foods contain more sugar and fat to make up for the lack of gluten.
If you give up eating gluten the right way, by increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables and gluten-free whole grains like quinoa, you may very well feel better and have more energy because you’ll be eating a lot fewer processed, high-calorie foods.
And ironically, people new to a healthy gluten-free diet sometimes may gain weight because the body can better absorb nutrients as it heals, says Alice Bast, president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. So go gluten free for health, not weight loss.