Seems like everywhere you turn these days, there’s more and more gluten free foods for sale.
In fact, Mintel estimates that the gluten free market was worth $10 billion in 2013. An interesting statistic when you consider that only about 1% of the population truly has celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease characterized by the inability to tolerate gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
The only therapy for celiac disease is lifelong adherence to a gluten free diet. But many people choose to follow a gluten-free diet, even if they don’t have celiac disease.
Some claim going gluten-free helps increase energy, might promote weight loss or helps them deal with gluten sensitivity issues…although there is not a consistent body of research to support all claims.
But just because a food is gluten free does not necessarily make it a “health food”. Actually, according to Food Navigator and flour milling company Ardent Mills, about 43% of the new gluten free foods introduced in 2013 were for gluten free snack foods like crackers, cookies or chips.
These highly processed snack foods – gluten-free or not – are foods we shouldn’t be eating that much of to begin with. Eating more cookies, cakes, crackers or chips is not going to help improve your health – no matter what your individual situation is!
So if you’re considering going gluten-free, make sure you don’t replace unnecessary calories from processed snack foods with gluten-free versions of the same!
A better approach is to look for and include foods that are naturally gluten-free, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy. For some good resources about gluten-free gains, check out the Whole Grains Council page on the topic here.