10/04/2015

Do Gluten-Free Products Deserve their Health Halo?

by Alica Diehl

You may have noticed a new bit of infrastructure at your grocery store: an aisle dedicated to foods made without gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale that gives dough its structure and texture.

Sales of gluten-free products are expected to rise 62% between 2014 and 2017, reaching annual sales of $14.2 billion according to market research company Mintel.  

With less than 10 percent of the U.S. population afflicted by gluten-related disorders, this growth is partly fueled by the perception that consuming gluten-free products will lead to a thinner body or optimum health. 

That's unlikely, however, since many gluten-free products are full of refined sugar, unhealthy oils, and unnatural gums. One popular gluten-free bagel, for example, has 54 percent more calories, six times the fat, 38 percent more sodium, and 43 percent more sugar than a comparable variety that contains gluten. (Notably, the gluten-free bagel also places a 74 percent greater burden on your wallet.) 

While gluten itself isn’t vital to human life, whole grain products containing gluten are a major source of B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber for many Americans.  A gluten-free diet done right can certainly incorporate those vital nutrients, but done wrong, it risks nutrient deficiencies. 

If you want to be healthy, well-nourished and enjoy eating, a gluten-free lifestyle requires more than shunning bread and frequenting the gluten-free aisle. You need to be equipped with strategies for preparing meals and snacks that are good for you and delicious.  

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Learn from the experts at our upcoming workshop, Going Gluten-Free without Going Crazy on October 14, from 6-8 pm.  This interactive class led by Rachel Druckenmiller, MS, will help you make sense of living as a healthy and  gluten-free eater. Her own trials and tribulations with gluten led her to become a Certified Culinary Nutrition Expert, wellness coach, and food blogger.

In addition to enjoying Rachel's cooking demonstrations, you'll learn about adapting recipes, dining away from home, and which gluten-free products are worth buying (yes, there are some).

Our resident nutrition research scientist, Chris D’Adamo, PhD, will be there, too, offering his own suggestions for gluten-free eating and providing insight from recent research. 

You'll get to sample all the dishes Rachel makes that night and take home a guide of tips, suggested products, online resources, and recipes.