Going gluten-free? Don’t make this mistake!

Whether its an experiment or doctor’s orders, going gluten-free is an adjustment. Removing gluten may mean eliminating not only some of your favorite foods, but possibly a good portion of your current diet. What foods will you eat in their place? How will you fill the gluten void?

Most likely, there’s no lack of “gluten-free” versions of your favorite foods on your grocer’s shelves. In fact, the number of gluten-free packaged foods is exploding to keep up with consumer demand. According to Euromonitor, the global gluten-free retail market is projected to reach $4.7B by 2020. So going gluten-free may be as easy as buying and opening a different box—or bag or carton.

But are gluten-free packaged foods the answer? Possibly not. In fact, they may be the surprising reason behind many go-gluten-free resolutions. Here’s why.

  • Cost: Gluten-free packaged goods cost more than their conventional counterparts, sometimes up to 30% more. The added cost of a gluten-free version may be worth it when trying to marry compliance and your favorite meal or for a special occassion. But buying gluten-free products by default could strain your wallet. Compare prices and buyer beware!
  • Calories: Gluten proteins provide the satisfying texture of so many foods, making baked goods bounce and giving pasta its chewiness. Therefore, when a gluten-containing food is manufactured as a gluten-free version, something needs to be added to create a palatable and flavorful product. Most often gluten-free versions will have added saturated fat, sugar, and sodium. So it is not uncommon to gain weight on a gluten-free diet, which relies on gluten-free packaged foods. “Gluten-free” doesn’t mean a product is low-calorie. So be sure to read the nutrition facts, or gluten-free products may strain your belt and blood pressure as well.
  • More (not less) processed: Most people go gluten-free for health reasons. But many gluten-free processed foods are actually more processed and less nutrient-dense than their gluten-containing counterparts. Without gluten for elasticity and chewiness, these products often rely on gums, starches, and stabilizers. Always read labels.
  • Your gut might not like it: It is not uncommon for individuals to experience gastrointestinal distress from gluten-free foods. The gums, starches, stabilizers, and many gluten-free alternate flours can cause bloating and other digestive issues. If your gut isn’t happy, reevaluate.
  • Is it really gluten-free? The Food and Drug Administration requires that products labeled “gluten-free” contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. However, be cautious of labels stating “low gluten,” “no gluten,” and “naturally gluten-free,” as these terms are not regulated.

There’s a better way. Don’t just swap out one package for another. Relying on gluten-free packaged foods can be taxing on your budget, blood pressure, waistline, and digestion. Rather, consider this an ideal time to shift your diet away from processed foods and toward more whole foods. Instead, give your diet a bona fide upgrade. Find out how in our upcoming post, “10 Ways to Go Beyond Gluten-Free.”

Reference:
Financial Times, Going gluten free: one of 3 trends shaking up commodities https://www.ft.com/content/5348432e-1a13-11e7-bcac-6d03d067f81f, Accessed December 9, 2017.

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