Gluten Free Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy

As students, our lives are busy and can be demanding.  We don’t always have time to think about what we are eating but some people are concerned about what they eat.

The gluten-free diet has been striking up a lot of interest lately.  Almost any grocery store now carries gluten-free products such as gluten-free cake mixes, pasta, bread, cereal, and even gluten-free nut milk.  Many people buy into gluten-free alternatives because it’s a new fad.  The thing is, just because something is gluten-free doesn’t mean it is healthier than non-gluten alternatives.

Gluten is only found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and some other grain products (which have remarkably less than those main three).  It is not present in corn, nuts, fruit and vegetables, or coconut.  But, for marketing reasons, these are often labeled as “gluten-free”.  I remember buying a bag of organic bean chips and seeing the label “gluten-free”.  I thought to myself, of course they are; beans don’t have gluten anyway! But for those who have no allergies, or those who have not done research, they can easily be fooled by these labels into thinking it means extra work or care has been taken.

While avoiding gluten if you have an allergy is important, unless you are sure you are allergic to gluten (by taking a blood test), then you may just have an intolerance, or no allergy at all.    Yes, if you have allergies this is important, and reading the label for hidden wheat is essential.

But let’s get back to the health thing.  Students are, more likely then not, pretty busy, and because of that, we look for quick option when it comes to eating.  Gluten-free products usually contain the same ingredients as the other junk food which has gluten in it.  They are just assumed to be healthier because of this new label, but this is not so.

Take for example gluten-free pretzel sticks.  They will still have all the salt, sugar, and coloring that regular pretzels will have.  Many people will just choose the gluten-free product (even when they do not have allergies) because they may assume it is healthier, after all, it is in the organic section.  This is the same with organic products.  Yes, they may be better in the sense that there are less chemicals in the products, but they are still loaded with unhealthy fats, sugars, and salts that the non-organic junk food contains as well.

The popularity of the “gluten-free” diet has caused people to somehow believe that if they only remove gluten products from their diet, they well be healthier.  I understand, because I was one of them.  My son has slight allergies to gluten, and I found this out 7 years ago, and since then our whole family has been gluten-free.  This is mainly because it wouldn’t be fair to eat products that my son couldn’t eat and plus, according to a book I read called “Wheat Belly”, wheat isn’t really that healthy anyway.

But this diet caused me to trust these “gluten-free” products and gave me an illusion of being healthier.  Then I started to read the ingredients and noticed that the main difference in the products is the type of flour used.  Not only that, but I noticed some gluten-free products had more unpronounceable ingredients than regular ones.

So, I guess the point is that it is important to read the ingredients and not just go by what the product is marketed as or what is written on the label.  I know most students don’t have a lot of time in the grocery store, but I think it is important to make a little extra time because it is your health after all.  As they say, you are what you eat, or at least, you become what you eat.

The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.  FAQ.  Retrieved from:
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