My Food Service Operations Management professor spoke briefly about this during our last class. We were discussing current trends in menu development, and the first trend mentioned was the proliferation of gluten free items. My professor has worked as a registered dietitian in the past, so I think I can trust what she has to say about this. I share her sentiments about people hopping on a gluten free bandwagon believing it is a healthier way to eat.
Like many college students, I get asked about my major. There is one instance when I was asked and I answered that I am majoring in Nutrition. The follow up questions were, “Do you do anything special? Are you gluten free?”
Wait a minute. Why the hell would I be gluten free? Did my Organic Chemistry classmate diagnose me with Celiac Disease within minutes of meeting me? I think not. GLUTEN IS NOT BAD FOR YOU!!!!!!
I love pasta. I love bread. I love baking vegan cookies. Seitan is made almost entirely of vital wheat gluten and it is a great source of plant-based protein. Gluten is glorious.
Ok, gluten is bad for you if you have Celiac Disease, but for the average person, gluten is fine. There are people who do not have Celiac Disease, but have discovered a legitimate gluten intolerance. I’m happy you found a way to avoid the gastrointestinal distress that has plagued you. I enjoy the challenge of developing recipes that are vegan and gluten free, because either diet alone is perceived as being extremely restrictive. I have made gluten free vegan food that will have you talking like Gen-Z, saying things like, “lit” and “on fleek.”
I Went Gluten Free And I Feel So Much Better!
People do report feeling better and/or losing weight after eliminating gluten from their diets. Why is that the case? Many baked goods and other highly processed foods contain flour, and therefore gluten. Gluten was not the culprit. If you stop eating Twinkies®, cakes, and cookies all the time, guess what will happen? You’ll feel so much better! The real mechanism of weight loss is the elimination of highly processed foods. If you quit eating regular pasta and replace it with brown rice pasta, guess what? The increased fiber content of brown rice will do your body good. Again, it’s not the elimination of gluten that’s helping you feel better. With the exception of white rice and white potatoes, most gluten-free grains are higher in fiber and protein. These are the good carbs you want to be eating, such as quinoa, amaranth, millet, and brown rice. One special treat is black rice or forbidden rice. It is one food worth every penny of it’s higher cost.
Shopping in the Health Food Section
If you’re reading this blog, you have probably wandered into the “healthy foods,” or “natural foods” section of the supermarket. You may have also noticed that the gluten free products are kept there. The average person on a Standard American Diet may pass by the section and see the big sign that says, “Gluten Free.” This might lead one to conclude that being gluten free is healthier.
The other issue with gluten free food is that the gluten free food that simulates traditionally gluten-containing foods can sometimes leave much to be desired. It is also more expensive than the food it mimics. Food science has made incredible advances, and many gluten free foods have improved dramatically. Even if you have Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, I would still advise you to limit these foods, simply for the sake of saving money. Brown rice and potatoes are cheap and have satisfying nutritional density.
Keep Calm and Eat Gluten
It is easy to be led astray by misinformation, especially in the realm of food and nutrition. The promises made by fad diets are captivating. Who doesn’t want to lose unwanted adipose tissue around the midsection? It’s easy to point to a particular food or ingredient and vilify it, whether it’s carbs, gluten, fat, sugar, artificial coloring, dairy, etc. Don’t just take my word for it. If you do have the opportunity to consult with a registered dietitian, ask the questions and answer theirs truthfully. If you know how to do research, have critical thinking skills, can identify reliable sources of information, appraise the reliability of a source, and can sniff out BS, then you are well on your way.