How many people are mad at me after just reading the title? How dare I suggest that the gluten-free crazy is the newest fad in the diet and healthy eating world, right? Well, hear me out…
I started looking into this topic after noticing how gluten free products are skyrocketing in availability and consumption. In fact, the gluten free market has grown 28% since 2004 and is estimated to be worth $2.6 BILLION by 2012. Seeing how many people were eating gluten free had me wonder… should I be eating gluten free, too?
Let’s start with the basics… what is gluten? Gluten is a type of protein found in rye, wheat and barley. People that have celiac disease must eliminate all gluten from their diet, otherwise they suffer from bloating, cramping, diarrhea, flatulence, pain, decreased energy, etc (similar to people that are lactose intolerant). Studies show that about 1% of the US population has celiac disease.
However, from my own observations, it seems that a lot more people are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon than 1% of the population.
Of course, some may argue that there is a whole other group of people that are gluten-sensitive. From my googling, it appears that this means they don’t have full blown symptoms, but feel better and have more energy when they stay away from gluten. To play devils advocate… is it possible that people who eat gluten free (who are not celiac) feel better because they are staying away from all the crap that usually goes along with gluten foods? Think about it… rye, barley and wheat are commonly found in pizza, breads, pastries, beer, pasta, cakes, cookies, muffins, cereals, etc. If you eliminated most of these foods from your diet, what would you be eating more of? Fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy, brown rice, quinoa… much healthier selections, don’t you think? Could it be that the better food choices (not the absence of gluten) are making non-celiacs feel better?
I wasn’t able to find any overwhelming evidence that eating gluten free if you aren’t gluten intolerant offers any kind of benefit. However, I know people that are not gluten intolerant but use phrases like “my dinner was healthy. I had gluten free pasta and marinara.” Then they can’t figure out why they aren’t losing weight. So what if they had 3 cups of pasta… it was gluten free. 😉
Statements like the one above concern me because I feel like people are being misled into believing gluten free foods are healthier for them, no matter what the actual product is.
Similar to when people say “I had a cookie, but it was an organic cookie.” It’s still a cookie. And probably still full of junk your body doesn’t need.
To sum it all up, I think the growing selection of foods available for people with gluten intolerance are wonderful! I’m just wary that it is becoming the new silver bullet of healthy eating. Since I haven’t been able to find any information to convince me otherwise, I’ll still be chowing down on my homemade whole wheat pizza with a Blue Moon to wash it all down 🙂