Gluten Free: What Does it Mean?
What does organic, gluten; soy, vegan and George Forman have in common? They are all considered to be apart of the healthy alternative in eating however most of us don’t even know the true concept of being organic, gluten free really is? What does a healthy alternative to eating imply?
While the idea of organic eating is fantastic: growing things without the use of pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics, and creating better living conditions for livestock (cage-free, vegetarian fed, etc.) ultimately ensuring a better product on our plate, a large portion of the population either doesn’t have access to these foods or the foods are simply priced too high for consideration. In this case, organic foods have obtained the reputation as the Mercedes-Benz of foods—yes it’s probably better for you, but it’s a luxury.
There is a craze amongst Americans when it comes to dieting, hence soy based, gluten free, low-fat, organic, etc. its interesting-food can be just as trendy as fashion. I imagine there is already a book about this and the title would be something like, “Food Fashion: Trendy Nutrition in America.” Once you go without gluten you never go back and for some it is the truth. Unfortunately in the land of the free there is a battle with the bulge, as most Americans are overweight, but is going gluten free the answer?
What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat that has become affiliated with a healthy alternative. Gluten, basically a protein found in wheat, is not bad for you or even a health risk. If you are allergic to gluten, have gluten sensitivity, or have celiac disease, then clearly that’s a horse of a different color. If you have an allergy, then the fact that there is a gluten-free section at the market should make you happy, because now you have more options—just as there is now lactose-free milk, yogurt, ice cream and pretty much everything else that traditionally has lactose in it.
Like organic, gluten-free has gotten slightly overblown by marketing executives, giving it an impression that it is healthier than it is. Granted, organic products in most cases are slightly more nutritious and likely have less chemicals on them, gluten-free is not a question of nutrition, it is a food with an image problem. You know how you see “No high fructose corn syrup” on foods now? Apparently it sounds better to put “sugar” or “pure cane sugar” on labels even though, nutritionally, there is little difference between that and HFCS, which is a sugar that is derived from corn.
It’s amazing that food, like a celebrity, needs a good publicist to survive.
Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, told the Huffington Post that those that are sensitive or allergic to gluten represents a minority, albeit a growing population, that can benefit from excluding gluten (entirely or mostly) from their diets. He continues, “For everyone else, going gluten free is at best a fashion statement, and at worst an unnecessary dietary restriction that results in folly. It reflects a tendency to ingest the ever proliferating pop-culture perspectives on diet and health, without first separating the wheat from the chaff.”
If people actually took a bit of time to learn about what foods they are putting in their bodies and what it means to be “healthy,” then perhaps purchasing habits would be quite different. Unfortunately this is not the case, and marketing and advertising firms earn their paychecks as a result through terms such as organic and gluten free. It’s way easier to watch a commercial or look at the big gluten free sticker on the package than look into exactly what the heck we are buying.
We are a nation trained by catchy jingles, animated tigers, and stylized photography. I think it is important for us to pay more attention to nutrition, if only slightly.
Think about it, when we were first placed on this earth, what did we eat? Gluten was not a main part of our diet, perhaps that is why we have trouble digesting it. I mean, after all, you are what you eat.