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11.05.2010

Is Gluten-Free Healthy?





Last night this segment aired on ABC News Nightline about the health consequences of eating a gluten free diet (avoiding all wheat, barley and rye). Dr. Peter Green, Director of the Celiac Center at Columbia University and celebrity, gluten free advocate and fellow Celiac, Elisabeth Hasselbeck were the featured guests. I was completely disheartened by the reporters take on eating GF, especially the mention of not being able to consume enough fiber and B-vitamins on a GF diet. Although I don’t think that everyone would benefit from eating gluten-free, I do believe everyone would benefit from eating less processed and prepackaged foods (which almost always contain gluten). It is entirely possible to be healthier and consume enough vitamins and minerals to be healthy while avoiding gluten. It seems the real issue is that American’s consume most of their vitamins from enriched processed food products, including enriched wheat. If more people went back to eating simple, wholesome, naturally nutrient dense foods, the lack of vitamins in any diet shouldn’t be an issue. 
One has to be choosy when it comes to eating gluten free and one should also be choosy when it comes to eating gluten. There are an abundance of GF products on the shelves made with refined white rice flour, refined sugar, corn syrup, and other not so good ingredients! There are also healthy and flavorful products on the shelves and in restaurants, made with non-GMO brown rice flours, buckwheat and even applesauce. It’s possible to enjoy a cupcake that is gluten free (think Babycakes in NYC) and also free of blue food coloring and ultra refined sugar...you know those Walmart cupcakes that are always at school celebrations?! We all should be in avoidance of those crazy chemistry experiment food products. 
Nutritionists and health professionals have been telling us for years to eat a diet rich in whole grains, lean meats, vegetables and fruits. Most people know the spiel, but many seem to not care or follow these important health tips. I try to eat this way everyday (with the exception of my own homemade desserts), be eating include quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, millet, teff, and GF oatmeal. Millet, oats and quinoa are all very high in B vitamins and fiber which totally debunks the idea that eating GF would lack these important nutrients. 
I won’t be the first to say that living in a society where wheat, barley and rye are more than abundant in our food system, it can be quite a challenge to eat gluten free. However, the challenge is worth it for my own health and renewal of life. I don’t believe the gluten free industry will be going away; this way of living may be a fad-diet for some, but for people like me (1 in 100 Americans) with Celiac Disease and gluten-intolerance, this is an essential way of life.

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