No matter where you go, it seems you cannot escape that food labels nowadays tell consumers if a product is gluten free or not. The trend has taken on such vigor that foods that never contained gluten are also being labeled gluten free in a bid to gain consumers attention.
The problem, however, is that no one knows for sure if gluten free foods are really as healthy as we treat them. Many people are self-diagnosing themselves with a gluten allergy. This is so much so that gluten has been vilified, but at what cost? Are food manufacturers cashing in on our fears? Let’s find out.
Gluten Free Foods Spark Debate
Many unprocessed foods are naturally gluten free. Until recently, almost all of the packaged foods we use daily contained gluten, especially baked goods such as bread. For many people, cutting out gluten from their diet has a profound effect on their health and well-being. People who have Celiac Disease find relief after removing gluten entirely from their diet.
Celiac disease is an immune disorder in which people cannot tolerate gluten because it damages the inner lining of their small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients. The small intestine is the tube-shaped organ between the stomach and large intestine.
Read more: Celiac Disease
However, not everyone who thinks they have Celiac Disease or a gluten allergy does. Recently, the number of people self-diagnosing Celiac Disease has reached an epidemic level. This is a problem, as removing an entire food type from your diet is a drastic measure that is rarely recommended by doctors. If you have a food sensitivity (rather than Celiac Disease), it could be a much less severe reality to live with. A food sensitivity is much easier to manage without banishing so many foods.
What You Need to Know About Gluten Free Foods
To understand the bigger problem, you need to know that gluten is a vital ingredient in almost all foods because it holds everything together. Without it, bread would be flour or cereal grain. This means that whatever replaces gluten must be able to live up to its expectations. This is no easy feat, and in order to create something that can do what gluten does, means that scientists are working overtime to create a chemical substitute that mimics gluten. If you’re wondering, “Do we really need more chemicals in our food supply?’’ then you’re thinking in the right direction.
Secondly, foods that are being labeled gluten free, while being processed differently, may still contain trace amounts of gluten. This is under speculation and could be because food manufacturers don’t know how to remove all of the gluten. It may also be because the FDA does not currently have any specific food labeling laws for gluten free foods, which means you could be consuming gluten. For those with Celiac Disease or a wheat allergy, this could be a life-threatening situation.