“If it is gluten-free, then it is good for me.” Some people think this. It is a myth: there is nothing to this statement and I will explain why.
There is not necessarily anything wrong with being on a gluten-free diet, even if you don’t “need” to be on one; it is important to understand the health trade-offs of following a gluten-free diet. You must ensure that anything that you might be missing in a wheat-based diet is replaced in a gluten free diet.
The other important fact to consider is that depending on what your gluten-free diet consists of, especially regarding prepared foods, a gluten-free diet can be generally less healthy than a gluten-filled diet, other than the gluten itself.
Gluten-Free Processed Foods
Highly processed foods are generally less healthy than less processed foods for sevarl reasons. They tend to be more oxidized and degraded. Whole foods tend to preserve themselves and prevent oxidation. When they are processed, this natural tendancy is removed. Heat and other processing factors further degrade the food. Processing food to a high degree removes many healthy components of the original food such as fiber in most cases. Then there are all the additives to make it taste good. Processed foods usually have a lot of sugar, salt and low-quality fat added.
Highly processed gluten-free food is no different, except it tends to have less taste than wheat-based foods so it can have more sugar, salt and fat added than for wheat-based processed foods. This makes gluten-free a less healthy option in many cases.
Wheat flour is generally fortified with some of the nutrients that were taken away during processing, and nutrients that are generally in short supply in many people’s diet, especially if they lack fresh fruit and vegetables. This isn’t as good as eating the original whole wheat, but it is better than nothing.
Gluten free is unlikely to be fortified in any way.
Sure, enjoy your treats and convenience foods on occasion, just don’t live on them!
Eating Healthy Gluten Free
Eating healthy gluten-free is no different from a wheat-based diet. The more whole grains and foods based on fresh fruit and vegetables, the better.
What is your experience with eating healthy on a gluten free diet? Please leave a comment.