On Saturday night at The Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, I had the pleasure of dining and talking with esteemed cookbook author and baking doyenne, Dorie Greenspan. Her company was absolutely delightful. We chatted about everything from the banana polenta which graced our plates to the gluten-free food craze sweeping the nation. Together, we mourned the fact this diet therapy has become a major trend. In fact, according to a report published by Datamonitor, the gluten-free market is expected to become a $4.3 billion industry during the next five years.
When I meet people living a gluten-free lifestyle, I always ask them why they’ve given up wheat, bulgur, rye and barley. They tell me it’s “to feel healthier” or “to have more energy,” but when I ask if they’ve had a serologic test for high levels of IgA tissue transglutaminase antibodies, I get a blank stare. Reason being, if you’ve had a blood test, you’d know with certainty whether you are or are not gluten intolerant.
Going gluten-free is a disease management therapy, and it’s essential, if you’re among the 1% of Americans who have been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease called Celiac Sprue; however, if you’re not gluten-sensitive, going gluten-free can be harmful.
Often, gluten-free diets emphasize products made with refined grains that are not enriched with vitamins and minerals; they can be high in fat and low in fiber, iron, folate, B-vitamins, calcium and phosphorous. Granted, including gluten-free grains in your diet like quinoa, millet and brown rice can help, but the fact remains, consumers seeing to lose weight or improve the quality of their health may actually find it more difficult on a gluten-free regimen.
Just because Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow go on gluten-free detox diets doesn’t mean you should, too; Oprah can’t stop yo-yo dieting and Gwyneth has osteopenia, so think before you give up whole grain bread and pasta. Better yet, go you your doctor, and get tested.