Can you trust labels that say “gluten free”?
By Britni Vincent, RD, LD
August 21, 2014
Have you ever been wary of labels such as "fat free" or "gluten free" in the supermarket? Have you ever wondered what defines them and what other ingredients may have been added to such foods? In August 2013, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that foods labeled gluten free need to meet specific requirements. As of August 5, 2014, all products with a gluten free label need to meet the FDA's new standards. Before the FDA issued this rule that defined what characteristics a gluten free-labeled food needed to have, consumers could never completely trust it was gluten free.
The FDA’s new standard is a progressive step and good news for individuals with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. It is especially important for those who have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease that can cause potentially life-threatening reactions when even trace amounts of gluten are consumed. The only way to manage the disease is to avoid gluten-containing foods.
Gluten free products are still processed
This new definition of gluten free is a relief for those who have celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, but the reality is that the healthiest gluten free foods—real, unprocessed foods—do not need labels. Gluten free packaged foods are becoming more abundant in the grocery stores. From 2008 to 2012, the gluten free market experienced a compound average growth rate of 28 percent; according to market research firm Packaged Facts. It is important to realize that the foods labeled “gluten free” are still processed. They lack nutrients, vitamins, fiber and can still increase inflammation in your body. Food manufacturers "get the worst foods to replace wheat and gluten" said William Davis, a cardiologist and author of the book, Wheat Belly. Gluten provides elasticity to baked products, helps them rise and maintains their shape. Without gluten, food manufacturers need to add more ingredients to make the product tasty and have a desirable texture.
Listen to our podcast: Going Gluten Free the Healthy Way to learn more about gluten and how to cut it out of your diet while avoiding gluten free products.
Studies show that gluten free products often have a higher carbohydrate content than their gluten-containing equivalents. In addition, it’s common that additional sugar is added to gluten free products to improve their taste. Food manufacturers often use potato, tapioca or rice flour in their gluten free products--all of which are high-glycemic foods that make your blood sugar rise quickly. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that blood glucose rose higher after eating gluten free bread than white bread. Even though individuals may decrease inflammation by removing gluten from their diets, the sugar, refined oils, and the processed carbohydrates in gluten free foods will still increase inflammation in the body.
A better way to eat gluten free
Although the FDA’s new gluten free requirements are good news, at Nutritional Weight & Wellness we have a better, healthier way to be gluten free. We recommend that individuals avoid process foods, even gluten free ones, and focus on a diet filled with real foods. Meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats are all naturally gluten free. The majority of carbohydrates you consume should come from vegetables, not packaged foods. Eating the Weight & Wellness Way will provide you with the nutrients your body needs, decrease inflammation and will help you to repair the damage in your intestines that may have been caused by consuming gluten.
Try this naturally gluten free meal plan for yourself:
- 2 eggs
- 1 strip of bacon
- 1 cup of spinach
- ½ cup of sweet potato
- 1 tablespoon of butter (to cook your eggs in and put on your sweet potato)
- 1 ½- 2 cups of chili
- ½ avocado and bell peppers
- 2 wild rice meatballs
- Celery with 2 tablespoons of almond butter
- 4 ounces of chicken
- ½ cup carrots
- Broccoli and cauliflower with 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
- ½ cup berries with 1 tablespoon heavy cream on top
If you want to learn how to eat gluten free the healthy way or to determine if going gluten free is best for you, you can meet one-on-one with a nutrition counselor. During the appointment the nutritionist will provide you with education and a customized gluten free meal plan. We also have a class, Going Gluten Free the Healthy Way, you can take in person or online.