Are gluten-Free Snacks Healthy: Help or Hype?

Tina Ruggiero
Gluten-free bulb can shine bright or dim.

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 over the next five years.

Why Embrace Gluten-Free Foods?

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. The reason is, if you’ve had a blood test, you’d know with certainty whether you are or are not gluten intolerant.

Gluten-free flour can be used for baking.

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.

Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten can cause serious health problems. When gluten is present in the diet, it can damage the intestinal lining and cause inflammation, which can lead to a host of other symptoms or health issues.

Understanding Gluten-Free Diets

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, seeking to lose weight or improve the quality of their health may actually find it more difficult on a gluten-free regimen.

Sample gluten-free foods and snacks.

Consuming gluten-free allows people with gluten sensitivities to enjoy food without experiencing the associated symptoms. For many, gluten-free eating can help manage their sensitivity as well as provide a variety of other health benefits.

Gluten-Free Foods/Snacks: Is it good for me?

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.

Eating gluten-free foods and snacks does not guarantee better health, but for those with gluten sensitivities, it can help them feel their best. With gluten-free foods becoming increasingly accessible, it is important to recognize the role gluten-free eating can play in improving overall health and well-being.

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