Everywhere you look, gluten-free options are cropping up. Particularly at your local grocery store. You don’t have to look too far to find replacements for all your old favorites and sometimes you think it’s too convenient to be possible. Food packaging practically screams your name—take me! I’m gluten-free!
We’ve got a new motto for you: If it sounds too good to be true, then you better do your research.
Cutting down on gluten typically translates as cutting down on carbs. We won’t argue with you, this is usually a good thing. The fewer bagels, muffins, and crackers you’re gobbling up, the healthier and leaner you’re going to be—with one proviso. You’ve got to replace those carbs with nutrient-dense foods: vegetables, lean meats, nuts, seeds, eggs and pseudograins like quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat. What’s nutrient-dense about that ‘gluten-free bagel’ from the freezer aisle? Absolutely nothing.
The conviction that gluten-free is healthier is growing: according to consumer research group NPD, almost one third of American adults are attempting to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diets.
As awareness of wheat’s genetic transformation grows, the ranks of gluten-free converts swells beyond those who simply can’t digest gluten. Promise hundreds of hopeful dieters weight-loss and more vibrant health, and you have a hot new dietary trend. Cue the demand curve, usher in marketers from the food industry, and brace yourself for new waves of misinformation. If there’s a buck to be had, the bandwagon will sell you anything: make it addictive and all the better. Many of us are waking up to the fact that public health is not always priority when it comes to sales. Even though some of these foods might be okay, most are simply new versions of the same old problems—another unhealthy serving of carb-loaded junk food. Here’s the thing:
Commercial gluten-free foods are just as processed as their wheat-containing equivalents. Heck, they’re often even MORE processed. Simply stated, they are NOT healthy for anyone.
Foods likes bread, cookies, and crackers that are made with cornstarch, rice starch (white and brown), tapioca starch, and potato starch are nothing more than refined junk foods. Ingredients listed as flours (corn flour, rice flour, potato flour) are the selfsame thing. Grinding grains into flours alters their physical structure, changing them from nugget to powder. In this dry, pulverized form, the surface area of the food exposed to the intestinal lining has enlarged and the natural fibers have been changed. The simple grinding process results in a greater elevation in the insulin levels in a person’s blood after eating, than that which is caused by the whole grain.
When blood sugar levels soar, our delicate body chemistry is disrupted, triggering the production of AGEs (advanced glycation endproducts). The process of glycation, or the glucose modification of proteins, is a dangerous contributor to cellular dysfunction. Sound familiar? Wheat does exactly the same thing! All the health complications we’re trying to protect ourselves from by going gluten-free are fair game once again: insulin resistance (diabetes), low HDL/high triglycerides/increased small LDL particles (ie. heart attack!), hypertension, arthritis, and cancer.
The gluten-free diet as weight-stabilizer suddenly goes out the door, too. Without awareness that these foods are sugar-forming empty carbohydrates, the growth of inter-organ fat in the abdomen goes unchecked. We end up with the dreaded and dangerous “muffin-top.” Countless anecdotes speak to this phenomena, with newly health-conscious people reporting serious weight gain after adopting a gluten-free diet. As soon as they drop the commercial gluten-free foods, the weight drops, too.
The question remains, why replace one refined carbohydrate for another? Take charge of your health and do not be fooled! It doesn’t matter if it’s organic sprouted multigrain magic bread that’s been fairly traded and sprinkled with fairy dust. If it’s made with cornstarch, rice starch, tapioca starch, potato starch, or wheat, no one should be eating it. Remember, just because the package says ‘gluten-free’ doesn’t mean it’s good for you. You can make your own gluten-free foods without junk carbs and there are plenty of resources to assist in your quest. We recommend William Davis’s book Wheat Belly not only for the solid information but great recipes, too. And don’t forget the blogosphere! There are hundreds of websites online offering free recipes and advice. Here a couple to get you started!