So you’ve given up your pizza crusts, hamburger buns and bread and for this monumental sacrifice, you are assured that you are living a healthier lifestyle. If you have stilled your carb cravings with fruit, whole grains, sprouted grains and veggies then congratulations; you really are on your way to a long and healthy life. If you, like so many of us, have been filling those cravings with gluten-free products—only too happy to be able to still enjoy your favorite foods, then you may be in for a nasty surprise.
Many gluten-free products are made from triple starches, commercial sugars, binders, and mostly eggs to make them hold together. Carbohydrates (starches) will convert to sugar in our digestive track which means that these gluten-free treats aren’t really good for you.
Paulette Lambert, director of California Health & Longevity Institute: “For those who simply want to try out the gluten-free trend, even with no real medical evidence to support it yet, it’s essential to continue to eat a balanced diet to get enough vital nutrients. Remember, just because a product is gluten-free does not mean that it is healthy.”
Why gluten-free doesn’t mean healthy
Cutting out gluten for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity will definitely result in an improvement of those symptoms associated with gluten intolerance. However, many gluten-free products are processed and contain unhealthy chemical additives and tons of sugar.
Tanya Zuckerbrot agrees: “A food billed as “gluten-free” isn’t necessarily healthier. Gluten-free products can be high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates, and some people who go gluten-free actually gain weight.”
In Canada, the gluten-free industry rakes in $90 million annually and in the US, its worth around $2.6 billion, but the masses who are flocking to the gluten-free aisle could actually be getting less nutrition than they were. This is because many processed gluten-free foods lack the minerals, vitamins, and fiber that their gluten-containing counterparts have.
A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found “there is some evidence to suggest that a gluten-free diet may adversely affect gut health in those without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.” This is mainly due to the fact that gluten-free diets that rely heavily on processed foods often lack the fiber, B vitamins, iron and folate that a healthy diet requires.
Even Dunkin Donuts is bringing out a ‘gluten-free’ range of donuts that are just as high in sugar as their regular counterparts. When you consume gluten-free processed foods that are high in sugar, your brain and body get addicted. That’s why you find those snacks so irresistible.
This is your brain on sugar
When you consume sugar, dopamine is released in the brain. This is the same kind of reward your brain issues for socializing, sex, addictive substances and nicotine. The brain needs glucose to function optimally, but sugary foods flood the brain with glucose, it damages blood vessels which can, in the long term, result in reduced cognitive functions. (Kodl CT, Seaquist ER: Cognitive dysfunction and diabetes mellitus). Even in the short term, sugar has a negative impact on our ability to focus and on our memories.
Sugar’s addictive properties were demonstrated in a study by Lenoir, Serre, and Cantin. Here a test group of rats had access to two levers. One dispensed sugar water and the other intravenous cocaine. The rats preferred the sugar over the cocaine.
This is your body on sugar
Sugar has a plethora of negative effects on your body. It promotes the growth of bad bacteria in your mouth and it’s high in calories with almost no nutritional value. Added sugars are high in fructose which turns to fat in the liver and can cause liver disease. Added sugar can cause resistance to insulin, which can contribute to many diseases including type 2 diabetes.
Sugar, thanks to its harmful effects on the metabolism, is a contributing factor in causing cancer. Sugar is a contributing factor in increased obesity rates in adults and children and sugar leads to high cholesterol levels and heart disease.
Many consumers are adamant that cutting gluten from their diets helps to relieve symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity. If you want to go gluten-free, then follow a healthy diet, packed with fruits, veggies and whole grains. If you do consume gluten-free products, ensure that you read the labels. Some gluten-free products can be healthy while others are packed with sugar. Opt for healthy gluten-free snacks so you can live long and prosper.