A recent study found that 30% of American adults are tempted to try a gluten-free diet – the highest percentage since the consumer research firm, NDP Group, began following the trend in 2009. All healthy eating “habits” seem to go through cycles. From low-fat diets, to avoiding carbohydrates on Atkins, over 100 years of dieting has certainly seen the ebb and flow of what is deemed “healthful” eating. Interestingly enough, the health fad of today seems to be the gluten-free diet.
But, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, is this trend in “losing weight” on a GF diet really about cutting out the gluten, or is it more about dumping the processed foods that are so often saturated or cross-contaminated with the dreaded protein?
It is no secret to Celiacs that going gluten-free is often about more than just swapping out wheat bread for gluten-free bread. Though it’s great there are some viable gluten-free products out there (especially when kids have to go without the flour), the reason many people are able to heal their gut is due to carefully monitoring their food intake and refocusing their diet around fruits, vegetables, and gluten-free whole grains.
Therefore, my question remains, is the gluten-free trend (among eaters who do not have Celiacs or an intolerance) driven by a desire to eat more healthfully, or is it fueled by strategic advertising of products that saw a demand resource that had previously been largely untapped? Market research found this year that the gluten-free food market is a $4.2 billion industry, further pushing the gluten-free label onto restaurant menus around the U.S. The words “Gluten-Free” seem to trigger a mistaken equation with “healthy” and “diet.”
Sadly for many Americans, they are succumbing to the snake oil sale of Gluten-free products. The processed food is oftentimes no better for you than gluten-filled processed foods. Fortunately for the Celiacs and gluten-intolerant who actually need gluten-free products, the proliferation of these products only serve to give more variety to our diets, no matter if the trend is driven by a fad in perceived health or not.
Now onto getting some more regulation about gluten-free labeling and the risk of cross-contamination and lowering those prices…