Gluten-free food isn’t health food

I’ve felt the need to write up this rant for a while. Gluten-free food isn’t health food. I’ve noticed some people and some big box stores think it is, or are at least trying to market it that way.

Gluten is a protein. Most people have no problem at all with it. It’s found in many grains. Corn has gluten. Rice has gluten. Those two have differently structured gluten than wheat/barley/oats/rye. Gluten is a glue-like protein. It is what enables bread to be so light and airy yet sturdy enough not to collapse in on itself. There are no gluten-free breads that can match the versatility of real bread’s texture. 

Wheat is a super-food. It has allowed humans to produce more pounds of cereal per acre than other crops. With a population of 7 billion and only so much arable land, this is important in what we farm and eat. It’s one of the reasons why less meat should be eaten by everyone who can healthily do so (meat consumes a lot of resources and is environmentally expensive to produce). 

No food should be eaten to the exclusion of others, including wheat, but if I needed to design a diet that had only one grain with no restrictions, I would pick wheat. Rice is too starchy and corn just can’t compete. They also yield less per acre than wheat. 

That being said, I am one of those who is gluten-intolerant. I get sick if I eat wheat. Because of this, and my neurotic nature I read labels. My gluten-free bread is mostly nutritionally garbage, especially compared to my wife’s whole wheat bread. Not only is it low in fiber and healthful vitamins/etc it is more expensive. I eat (gluten-free) bread only once a week when I make french toast because of this.

Other gluten-free food follows similar patters, very low fiber compared to their wheat alternatives, no B-vitamins (as someone who doesn’t eat much meat this is important).

Gluten-free food is more expensive and less nutritional. It offers no health advantage for those who can consume gluten safely. I am glad there are more options now than when I became gluten-free (2006), but I worry about people cutting gluten out of their diets in an effort to be healthier. It’s not healthier to eat gluten-free Oreos versus whole wheat bread.  

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About DeCaf

Just a code monkey.
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One Response to Gluten-free food isn’t health food

  1. theartist says:

    Well said, way too many people are being sucked into the “healthy” marketing of gluten-free foods. My wife just started trying a no gluten diet. She has major back and joint problems and her Dr. said to try it for a few weeks. She’s pretty sad about it and the gluten free breads and such are so expensive, it’s just not worth it.

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