Unless you’ve been living in a tent for the past couple years (can I come?!), you’re probably very aware of the gluten-free fad diet explosion, to the point of being annoyed. A huge percentage of people are doing their best to be gluten-free, advocating the diet’s benefits, and loading up the cart with dozens of GF products. Many of these people have Celiac Disease, like myself, or a gluten allergy/sensitivity that requires (in the case of Celiac) or recommends a gluten-free diet.
And yet, less than a third of these consumers are buying gluten-free due to a diagnosed health condition.
(according to a study by Packaged Facts)
In most cases, gluten-free products are more expensive, harder to find, and just generally don’t taste as great as their gluten-full counterparts. So… what’s going on here?
After you watch this hilarious Jimmy Kimmel video interviewing people in LA about gluten, we’ll dive right in.
There seems to be a widespread misconception that GF products are inherently healthier. Unfortunately, junk food will always be junk food, processed food will always be processed food, and cookies made with corn, rice, and potato starch instead of wheat are still bad for you.
Many people seem to go gluten-free to lose weight. True, eliminating all gluten-containing foods like pasta, bread, crackers, and cookies, and replacing them with fresh, plant-based ingredients will probably help you lose weight. But this is not successful because you’ve cut out gluten…you’ve just cut out all the foods that are bad for you anyway. Many people I know say they simply feel better once going gluten-free, likely for the same reason.
However, if you “go gluten-free” by simply switching out all of your packaged goods with GF versions, it is highly unlikely that you will lose any weight. There’s actually a good chance that you’ll gain weight, since many brands add additional sugars, fats, and starches to make up for the absence of gluten, typically in an attempt to create the best texture.
Honestly, I do sometimes resent this fad diet because people are voluntarily giving up something many of us would love to eat (I miss you, craft beer), and because some part of me is afraid of being judged by those who think I’m just being trendy (I realize I should not care about this at all…but that’s for a later topic).
(It is important to note that I am not a doctor, dietician, or scientist. But the research has been done, and it’s readily available all over the interwebs!)
So, why am I so happy about this fad diet?
The mostly misguided hype surrounding the gluten-free diet benefits those with Celiac Disease and other gluten-sensitive conditions in a phenomenal way. The market says it wants more gluten-free food, the companies produce more GF options & improve existing products, stores make these products more available, and restaurants add gluten-free options.
This. Is. Awesome.
I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in April of 2012. At that time, I didn’t know what gluten was, what products contained it, and how the hell I was going to eat. Already being vegetarian, limiting my food options even further seemed difficult, especially since I lived off pasta and variations on the grilled cheese.
Even just 2 years ago, I had difficulty finding gluten-free products in the main grocery store. They existed, but there was usually 1 option per food, if any option at all (i.e. one type of bread, one type of noodles, etc.), and that option wasn’t always great. Actually, I tried some seriously bad gluten-free pastas in that first year.
Cardboard Alfredo, anyone?
Anyway, after the first 6 months or so, I started to see more and more products hit the shelves, and they were good ones too! More brands, more variety, better tasting, and less expensive. This has only continued, with seemingly exponential growth. It’s true that Celiac is being diagnosed more frequently, but this is nothing compared to the immense increase in consumers looking for gluten-free products.
Now, I can find a gluten-free version for almost any food, and can eat more than just a salad in many restaurants. 2 years ago, this was definitely not the case.
I know that my fellow Celiacs and I have to thank the fad diet for this incredible growth. No matter what your reason for pursuing a gluten-free diet, your increased demand for gluten-free options has helped a group of people who have been waiting for this for some time. So, thank you.
And that is why I love the fad diet.