Are Gluten Free Products Really a Healthier Choice?
Posted Oct 10 2012 11:46pm
With more and more people finding out that they can’t eat gluten, there has been a huge boom in “gluten free” foods hitting our store shelves. But are these new gluten free foods really any healthier than their gluten containing counterparts?
It seems that many people feel as though the words “healthy” and “gluten-free” are synonymous. The truth is, they definitely aren’t.
Despite the fact that gluten-free foods will always be a better choice to those with gluten intolerances and celiac disease, the reality is that nutritionally speaking, many of the gluten free products now on the market are actually very “unhealthy”.
When large multinational corporations start getting on the bandwagon of the newest food trends you really have to start choosing your products wisely. These companies are in the business of selling products. So in the case of food, they will make products that are eye catching, taste good and “hook” the consumer to buy again. Gluten free foods are no different than any of the food products that have come before them. And as we have seen in the past, one of the easiest ways to get customers hooked on your product is through their sweet tooth.
If you read through the ingredient lists on packaged gluten-free foods, you will likely find that the first few ingredients are things like White Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Corn Starch or Tapioca Starch. These are the things that give gluten-free baked goods a similar taste and texture to traditional white flour baked goods. And while these ingredients are not unhealthy in small quantities, they are essentially pure starch and devoid of dietary fibre. That means that when we eat these foods our bodies quickly convert the starches (simple carbohydrates) into sugars, which then results in a spike in blood sugar levels. In short, our bodies treat these foods very similar to the way they treat sugar. And as we all know, excess sugar is the culprit behind many health concerns including obesity, diabetes and candida.
So does that mean that you should avoid all gluten-free products on the market? Definitely not. Although I always recommend eating whole foods that you prepare yourself over anything from a package, the truth is that sometimes you just want a quick fix. So as with anything else, you just need to spend the time to read labels and find out what you are really buying. Here are some tips for choosing healthy gluten-free packaged foods:
1. Avoid products that list refined or white flours/starches (white rice, potato, tapioca, etc.) or sugars as the first ingredient -The lower down the list, the better.
2. Look at the grams of sugar per serving – lower is better and anything over 8g is way too much!
3. Look for gluten free products that are made from whole, organic foods whenever possible. In baked treats or pre-baking mixes look for main ingredients like coconut flour (high fibre), almond flour (high fibre and protein), quinoa flour (high protein, low starch), stone ground sorghum flour or stone ground brown rice flour.
4. Look at the quality of ingredients used. Look for words like: organic (always!) unrefined and stoneground.
5. Look for products that use whole fruits as sweeteners or at least high nutrient sweeteners like Molasses, Coconut Syrup and Maple Syrup (Honey should only be eaten raw). And for sugar free products remember that pure Stevia is the only truly healthy calorie-free sweetener.
6. Avoid foods that contain preservatives of any kind. These may include: BHA, BHT, propionic acid or sodium benzoate.
7. Look at the fibre content and choose products that have at least 2g of fibre per serving.
The bottom line is that eating gluten free is really no different than eating for any other kind of diet or un-diet, in that you still need to take your body’s nutritional needs into consideration and know what you are really putting in your body.
Stand up for your health. Be a renegade. Question everything.