When the Girl Scouts introduce a gluten-free cookie, you know the gluten-free food craze has gone mainstream; however, according to the Mayo Clinic, a mere 1.8 million people have Celiac Disease (CD), an autoimmune disorder that demands a 100% gluten-free diet, yet everyone is hopping on the wheat-free bandwagon. The market is expected to balloon to more than $15 billion in 2016, and you can bet the relative few with CD are not driving category growth.
So, why the craze, and is it a fad or a lifestyle here to stay? The answer depends on who you speak with.
Industry analysts think it’s due to consumer interest in overall digestive health (hence the explosive growth of the yogurt category). Food activists believe the gluten-free trend is part of their push for everything to be “free” (GMO-free, soy-free, etc.). Dietitians will tell you their clients think gluten-free foods are healthier than traditional wheat-based foods, and doctors say the rise of the gluten-free food trend is a result of a wheat or gluten sensitivity in the population.
Clearly, more research is needed to sort out the conflicting opinions, but here’s the low-down:
While some have adopted a gluten-free lifestyle as a personal choice toward achieving a healthier way to live, there are some very specific reasons for going gluten free.
- Celiac Disease: It’s an inherited, autoimmune disorder in which proteins from the grains wheat, rye and barley damage the small intestine. The only treatment for CD is a regimented, lifelong gluten-free diet.
- Wheat Allergy: When referring to food, an allergy can be defined as affecting the immune system and has an immediate reaction upon ingestion. Eliminating the offending food(s) solves the problem.
- Wheat or Gluten Sensitivity: Food intolerance can be defined as affecting the digestive system and as such, it typically takes longer for a reaction to occur. In this case, it’s not well-understood whether gluten is to blame or another component of wheat, but eliminating wheat seems to ease negative symptoms.
While switching to a gluten-free diet can be a challenge, there are lots of great-tasting wheat-free products and recipes available to meet your need for flavor and health. A great example? Try my Chopped Greek Salad on Breton Gluten Free Crackers with Flax. Delish!
Chunky Greek Salad with Gluten-Free Crackers
4 small vine-ripened tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 small English cucumber, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
4 oz crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
Place vegetables in a medium size bowl. Toss gently, and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, oil, vinegar and oregano. Season to taste. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss again. Add crumbled feta cheese, and serve with Breton gluten-free crackers.
Nutrition Information per Serving:
Total Fat: 12 g
Carbohydrates: 7 g
Protein: 5 g
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Sodium: 320 mg
Makes 6 servings