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.
There’s no doubt that the gluten free market is blowing up.
The size of the gluten free food market may be worth more than $7.5 billion by 2020.
But what sort of quality have we come to expect when we see a gluten free label?
What is Gluten?
Gluten is simply the protein found in rye, wheat and barley. So,theoretically, gluten free foods would be those that are just devoid of those ingredients.
But the gluten free market has become so much more…instead of focusing on foods that are naturally gluten free, many people with a celiac diagnosis (which requires lifelong adherence to the gluten free diet) instead look to gluten free versions of junk foods that they shouldn’t be eating that much of anyway.
What Gluten Free Foods are Popular?
Take a gander down your local grocer’s gluten free aisle, and here’s what you’ll see:
- Gluten free cakes
- Gluten free cookies
- Gluten free refined breads
- Gluten free crackers
- Gluten free pretzels
…and the list goes on.
Anyone trying to eat well should avoid foods like cakes, cookies, refined breads, crackers and pretzels – regardless of whether they are gluten free or not.
Don’t Bulk Up on Gluten Free Junk Food
A new study showed that nearly half of all gluten free product sales come from snack foods.
And guess what: nobody needs that many snacks!
A good approach if you do need to eat gluten free is to focus on eating more of the foods that are naturally gluten free, like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, reduced- or low-fat dairy foods, and grains such as quinoa, corn and gluten free oats.
Don’t waste your money on refined, packaged and processed gluten free junk foods!
To learn more, here’s a great article on Gluten Free Whole Grains from the Whole Grains Council.