Ironically, now that so many “gluten-free” products are on the market, “gluten-free” may not in fact mean free of gluten. A new survey found that seven out of 22 naturally gluten-free grains were “contaminated” with gluten, probably as a result of cross-contamination when processed in plants with other grains that contain gluten.
Gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley, is extremely harmful for those with celiac disease, for whom ingesting gluten triggers an immune reaction that damages their small intestine villi and prevents absorption of nutrients. It is estimated that as many as one in every 133 persons has celiac disease, but many more have a mild to moderate gluten intolerance. Furthermore, it seems the disease may be on the rise .
The following grains are naturally gluten-free: oats, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, soy, flax and amaranth seed and rice. While they are inherently gluten-free, oats have long been risky for those with celiac disease because of their high potential for cross-contamination as they are frequently processed in food manufacturing plants next to grains containing gluten. According to this study, other gluten-free grains may be subject to the same problem.
With the exception of those of us with celiac disease, until recently few people even knew what gluten was. Today it seems everyone is reaching for gluten-free foods similar to the way they did during the fat-free craze back in the 90s.It’s important to note, that just because a food is “gluten-free” does not mean it is more nutritious. Many processed, packaged gluten-free foods are no better and in some cases are more processed than their gluten-containing counterparts. If you need to avoid gluten for health reasons, the best way to ensure you’re eating truly nutritious, gluten-free food is to eat fewer packaged and/or processed foods. And, when shopping for gluten-free grains, it’s a good idea to check the label to make sure they were not processed in the same plant as gluten-containing grains.