A gluten-free diet is recommended for people with celiac disease, gluten-sensitivity or the skin disorder dermatitis herpetiformis. A gluten-free diet may be helpful for some people with irritable bowel syndrome, the neurological disorder gluten ataxia, type 1 diabetes and HIV-associated enteropathy.
Beyond this, there's little evidence that a gluten-free diet offers any particular health benefits. However, a gluten-free diet can still be a healthy way to eat depending on which gluten-free foods you choose, how often you eat them and whether your other food choices are healthy ones.
Good gluten-free choices include naturally gluten-free foods, such as lean meats, low-fat dairy, vegetables, fruit, whole gluten-free grains and healthy fats.
It's important not to replace gluten-containing foods with more red meat, full-fat dairy, starchy vegetables, sweets and fats, which can lead to a higher intake of cholesterol, saturated fat, sodium and unwanted calories.
It's also prudent to limit commercially prepared gluten-free snacks and bakery products, which are typically high in refined carbohydrate, fat, sugar and salt — just like their gluten-containing counterparts.
Studies suggest that the nutritional quality of commercially prepared gluten-free products varies from similar gluten-containing products. In several countries, for example, commercially prepared gluten-free foods are lower in protein than their conventional counterparts.
In the U.S., gluten-free foods tend to be lower in folate, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. This may be because in this country most wheat products are enriched with folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron, while gluten-free flours, cereals and bread products typically are not.
However, gluten-free whole grains, such as amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, teff, millet, corn and rice, are good natural sources of folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron — as well as protein and fiber.
Aug. 27, 2020
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing
Our Housecall e-newsletter will keep you up-to-date on the latest health information.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
See more Expert Answers
- Wu JH, et al. Are gluten-free foods healthier than non-gluten foods? An evaluation of supermarket products in Australia. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114:448.
- Mazzeo T, et al. The development of a database of gluten-free products. Public Health Nutrition. 2015;18:1353.
- Missbach B, et al. Gluten-free database: The nutritional quality and cost of packaged gluten-free foods. PeerJ. 2015;3:e1337.
- Kulai T, et al. Assessment of nutritional adequacy of packaged gluten-free food products. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. 2014;75:186.
- Thompson T. Thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin contents of the gluten-free diet: Is there cause for concern? Journal of the American Dietetic Association.1999;99:858.
- Thompson T. Folate, iron, and dietary fiber contents of the gluten-free diet. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2000;100:1389.
- Saturni L, et al. The gluten-free diet: Safety and nutritional quality. Nutrients. 2010;2:16.
- El-Chammas K, et al. Gluten-free diet in nonceliac disease. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2011;26:294.
- Nelson JK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 27, 2017.