Does this Gluten-free fad, really bind us together?
You walk into a grocery store and see all of the cereals, baked goods, cakes, and even cookies, all laid out in sequenced order. Any food that is essentially textured will probably have that notable ingredient that everyone seems to be in avoidance of. That ingredient? Gluten. Let’s start off with what we know.
In lemans terms, Gluten is a binding agent that creates that desirable texture that we love. Gluten refers to a family of proteins known as Prolamins (primarily Glutenin and Gliadin), many of which, can be found in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, and rye (Niland & Cash, 2018). The term “gluten-free” was introduced in food labels several years ago. According to the the article by Benjamin Niland and Brooks Cash entitled, “Gluten sensitivity: New epidemic or New Myth?“(2018), there was a significant spike in the overall consumption of gluten-free foods in the past 30 years. Their studies have shown that the nutritional composition levels of trans-fats, protein, and salt were much higher in gluten-free products compared to their gluten-containing counterparts. As a result, even with the obvious lack of nutritive quality in these gluten-free foods, the overall popularity of consuming these labelled products increased (Missbach et al., 2015).
Who actually needs to consume gluten-free products? Individuals suffering from celiac disease (CD) are known to show high levels of intestinal inflammation when exposed to gluten-containing foods. This also includes those who may have gluten intolerance, or wheat allergy (Missbach et al., 2015). These individuals are unable to digest and break down binding agents, in which is what gluten essentially is.
People who are not diagnosed with celiac or gluten intolerance, still purchase and/or consume foods without gluten, expecting the food item to be a healthierway to incorporate good food choices. As mentioned by Missbach et al., (2015) for healthy consumers, replacing gluten-containing products may be cost effective and appear appropriate as a healthy alternative. However, gluten free foods do not provide additional health benefits from a nutritional perspective. This means that if we are eating foods that do not benefit us nutritionally, this can cause an avid increase in the other chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart diseases, or even obesity. Which goes back to the initial question, are gluten-free foods actually good for you?
Majority of the food products advertised is “empty” caloried, and high in trans fats, compared to their counterpart food products. Many food companies are labelling and reformulating their food products to incorporate gluten-free options. You see this often in processed foods, and even in some foods that you would not likely assume to have gluten to begin with. In the article “Gluten-Free Industry is Healthy, but is the food?” (2013), exemplifies Boston Pizza’s individual-sized “GlutenWise” pizzas as a questionable option. These individual pizzas have 720 calories, compared to the 500 or so calories in its regular crust pizza. GlutenWise pizza is also higher in saturated fat, salt, and sugar (Gluten-free industry is healthy, but is the food?, 2013). What does this fact exactly tell us?
Accordingly, in the article entitled Gluten-free industry is healthy, but is the food? (2013) food industries do not make a lot of money by selling the phrase of ‘eating real food’. Their reality is to sell highly processed foods to benefit them financially, rather than what is deemed “healthy”. Foods that are considered to be “healthy” include fresh chicken, eggs, whole vegetables, and fruits, just to name a few. In other words, real whole food, which does not need any nutritional claims in order to sell, are actually not as appealing if they are not trending.
For individuals who are actually adhering to such a diet because of gluten-intolerances or individuals diagnosed formally with celiac disease or wheat allergies, then this debate of gluten-free product consumption appears to be appropriate. In retrospect, people still need to consider nutritive values towards providing an overall balanced and healthy diet, and not just cave into trends such as consuming/purchasing gluten-free products.
It is up for us consumers to be able to differentiate what is healthy and what is not. In order to do this, we need to be provided the knowledge base or be informed of what food labelling of gluten-free products really mean. Can gluten-free products benefit all, and does this mean that it is a healthy alternative for those interested in eating a healthierdiet? To answer both of these questions, you can say it’s a yes and no scenario. On one hand, those who have gluten intolerance, of course, you would want to stay within that range of a gluten-free diet. This essentially means that having a better understanding for us consumers is required, to fully grasp whether or not gluten-free products should truly be avoided in our diets.
Written by me.
Jones, A. L. (2017, May 01). The Gluten-Free Diet: Fad or Necessity? Retrieved January 21, 2019, from http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/2/118
Gluten-free industry is healthy, but is the food? (2013, September 17). Retrieved January 21, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3778458/
Missbach, B., Lukas, Billmann, A., Mystek, A., Hickelsberger, M., Bauer3, G., . . . Geleijnse JM. (2015, October 22). Gluten-free food database: The nutritional quality and cost of packaged gluten-free foods. Retrieved January 21, 2019, from https://peerj.com/articles/1337/
Nash, D. T., & Slutzky, A. R. (2014, April 27). Gluten sensitivity: New epidemic or new myth? Retrieved January 21, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4255872/
Niland. B., & Cash, B. D. (2018, February). Health Benefits and Adverse Effects of a Gluten-Free Diet … Retrieved January 21, 2019, from http://www.gastroenterologyandhepatology.net/files/2018/02/gh0218NilandCash-1.pdf
What are some food trends that you can think of? Comment below!