Suddenly they’re everywhere…gluten-free foods.
These products are all the rage and have begun flying off supermarket shelves.
Well, this new “health” trend isn’t really about health at all.
So, what’s the truth behind the gluten-free craze?
Let’s get straight into the facts…
The Goods on Gluten
Let’s begin by making it clear what gluten is …
Very simply, gluten is a protein found naturally in wheat, barley, rye, and other related grains (bulgur, spelt, faro, etc.).
The reason that gluten has come to the forefront of the news is that because some people suffer with Celiac Disease. This disease is caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten. The symptoms vary, but generally include diarrhea, anemia, bone pain, and skin rashes.
It can be a very debilitating disease, however, Celiac Disease only affects an estimated 1% of all Americans – and while others may have milder gluten intolerance – it is still very, very rare.
For those who suffer with these issues, gluten-free products are a great help to maintain a varied diet with less difficulty.
And for the rest of us?
The Gluten Gluttons
First of all, be informed, not fooled.
Because gluten-free foods have become trendy (and largely because they are misunderstood), the market for them is booming.
The thing is, gluten has become such a buzzword that I have seen it added to the labeling of items that have NEVER had gluten. As a matter of fact, yesterday at the grocery store I saw signs for gluten-free meat and bottled water.
More importantly, be aware that gluten-free in no way means that something is healthier.
As a matter of fact, eating only gluten-free foods if you are not gluten intolerant can be bad for you because you can lose out on the many vitamins, minerals, and fiber that naturally come from whole grains.
Also, as with fat-free foods, in the case of some of the processed gluten-free foods, extra sugars or fats are added in to pump up the flavor. This means that they may actually be bad for your weight loss efforts.
As Dr. Alesio Fasano, lead author of that study and director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine says, “one thing a gluten-free diet does not do is make you lose weight.”
And finally there is the cost. Almost all gluten free products will cost you more than those that are not. This is great for the manufacturers who raked in $4.2 billion last year alone, but not so great for you.
For more about the cost, check out this article from Time Magazine: http://business.time.com/2013/03/13/why-were-wasting-billions-on-gluten-free-food/
In no way do I want to detract from the misery that Celiac Disease can cause for those suffering from it. And for these people who need to carefully monitor everything that they eat for the rest of their lives, I think that having gluten free options makes life much easier.
However, for the rest of us, these products are costly and completely unnecessary. They are not health food, and they will not help you to lose weight.
All right, now I’ll get down off my soapbox and enjoy a cup of Wu-long Tea (which is gluten-free by the way).