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**This post has been entered in Fight Back Fridays at Food Renegade and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!**

These days, it’s become practically mainstream to go gluten-free.  More and more people are becoming aware of gluten allergies, and that we could all do with a little less of it (very true).  Even people who don’t specifically have a gluten allergy are choosing gluten-free products now.  But, you know what?  I don’t like gluten-free.  I think, generally, it misses the point.

People are always looking for the easiest way to do something.  Sometimes it’s because they don’t know what else to do; sometimes it’s because they are overwhelmed; and sometimes it’s because they like the easy way out because, well…it’s easy.  Gluten-free, especially as it has become much more recognized (did you know many restaurants now offer gluten-free options or entire menus?), has become an “easy way out.”

The problem in our American diets is not really gluten.  Yes, too much gluten is bad for us.  Yes, a lot of people are sensitive to it.  Yes, we do have many people who are diagnosed with celiac, and avoiding gluten is crucial to their health.

But the real problem is that we just eat too many grain-based foods.  Going gluten-free, especially when people do it because it’s “popular” rather than out of a real health need, is just a way to eat the same amount of grains — just different ones.  Instead of switching out wheat-based foods for naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy, we simply replace our breads, snacks, and treats with gluten-free versions, and think we are much healthier.

But many gluten-free products are highly processed and not particularly healthy.  They contain xanthan gum, guar gum, lots of starch, sugar, polyunsaturated oils (which, when heated, are as bad as trans fats), and so on.  A lot of gluten-free flours couldn’t be created in your own kitchen.  I can buy wheat berries and grind my own wheat.  I can’t make my own potato starch, and I’m not sure about bean flours….

“If they’re gluten-free they’re safe!  And we like pretzels!”  But do you really need to eat that much cornstarch?  And if they’re not organic, they’re probably GMO, too.  Most corn is, and a lot of rice is now, too, so unless you always buy organic (even plain corn and rice), you are probably consuming GMOs.

We are destroying our guts and our health anyway by consuming these overly processed food items and heavy amounts of starch and sugar, which still spike our blood sugar.  If you are on a gluten-free diet in order to try to help a particular health condition (like autism), please know it is the overload of starch that is hard on the gut, and that going gluten-free doesn’t change that.  Those products are still quite high in starch and will not allow the gut to heal.  Processed gluten-free products are fooling people into thinking they are taking a step towards becoming healthier, when really they’re not.  It’s kind of like all those artificial sweeteners….  (Please tell me you know those are bad!)

Which do you think is healthier for most people — naturally fermented sourdough, made with whole, non-GMO grains; or processed gluten-free bread with bleached flours, thickeners and gums?

Overall, the solution is just to reduce our overall consumption of grains.  We need to stop thinking “If it’s gluten-free, it’s okay!” and then indulging in junk food.  It’s just like the fat-free cookies that people buy (which are loaded with sugar).  We’re tricked into thinking these products are healthy but it is just mass marketing!  Read the label on a gluten-free product sometime and tell me how many ingredients you can pronounce, and how many you could create in your own kitchen.  I’m betting you’ll find several on there that you can’t.

We need focus, instead, on naturally gluten-free products, like fruits and vegetables, meats, and raw dairy, rather than just replacing our old favorites with possibly-less-bad substitutes.  It’s like buying soda made with real cane sugar from the health food store: yeah, it’s better, but it’s certainly not healthy!  It’s not going to improve your wellbeing in any way.

Is that to say that we should never have any treats?  No.  A rare gluten-free treat is better than a conventional one, to be sure.  But we shouldn’t have a steady diet of gluten-free bread, crackers, pretzels, and cookies, just because “they’re gluten free!”

Should we never eat any grains?  For many people that’s not realistic.  They like to eat corn and rice from time to time.  Hey, we do too, although we’re currently choosing not to.  But instead of serving some form of grains with every meal, or even as the meal, we should be mindful of our food choices and attempt to eat more naturally gluten-free foods.

What do you think of gluten-free?  Are you gluten-free?


This is the writings of:

Kate is wife to Ben and mommy to Bekah (6.5), Daniel (5), Jacob (3), and Nathan (1.5). She is passionate about God, health, and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and a popular book entitled A Practical Guide to Children's Health. She also recently released Healing With God's Earthly Gifts: Natural and Herbal Remedies, which teaches people to use natural remedies to keep their families healthy. When she's not blogging, she's in the kitchen, sewing, or homeschooling her children.

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77 Comments

  1. I agree whole-heartedly. We live in a society that is so fucused on packaged and processed food and of course they all contain grains (gluten free or not) that the health of our society is plummeting. Everyone who consumes grains could most like use a reduction in their diets. If you fink buying packaged or processed food is healthy because it gluten free, you are wrong. But they are great as a treat if you or someone you know are going to be in a food centered social event or traveling. We typically bring our own food and snacks to avoid consuming foods out of our diet and to keep the kids emotionally stable as their moods change dramatically when consuming many chemically based foods.

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  2. I have gone gluten free due to migraines. Since doing so I have dropped 15 pounds and have lost the most of my “wheat belly”. But taking out the gluten has also regulated my sugars. I wasn’t eating a ton of breads, etc and making my own but my body has a sensitivity to it.

    Now since doing so I occasionally treat myself in gluten free ginger snaps but that is a rare occasion. I don’t buy gluten free bread very often and have maybe 1 slice a week. When I cut out the gluten I had NO desire to replace it with premade products. And since doing so have felt SO much better.

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  3. I just have to say that we grow our own wheat with no chemicals and grind it and bake our bread….how can this be wrong??? We eat toast for breakfast and that is abot it for the day..
    Cindy in MN

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    • I’m curious about this too. We grind wheat to make fresh bread. I’ve thought about going GF, but I can’t justify it for the money I’ve spent on my bread machine and mill. I understand that store-bought bread is unhealthy and processed, but I dont understand what’s so awful about grinding wheat to make bread that has all the nutrients God intended because we use the whole wheat berry. Please enlighten me!

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  4. I totally agree. If you don’t need to be GF there is no health benefit to buying GF “replacement” products.

    My biggest irritation is when clearly, naturally GF, gets the GF label… I’ve seen it on water, potatoes, rice, corn and meat, veggies and fruit. If we weren’t so naive to what goes into our food this probably wouldn’t be a problem

    (and there are really few foods that naturally contain gluten (cross-contamination aside) Wheat, Barley, Rye, and Malts… (oats, technically aren’t but growing practices may lead to cross-contamination…)

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    • I think it’s also a case of foods having so many additives that something that seems as simple as a frozen turkey or rotisserie chicken actually COULD have gluten in it. I read the labels on everything because I have been surprised more than once.

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  5. I have been gluten free for about 3 now (with a few slips that I have paid for) and I am also trying to be aware of the GMOs and unhealthy processing of foods. One thing I would like to add here for your readers is a note on the gums, xanthan and guar. I have done a little reasearch into these and have to say if you use these in your GF cooking, you are not doing yourself any favors. I have however found a wonderful substitute…Chia seeds. I use ground chia seeds exclusively to replace xanthan and guar gums in my recipes and it works wonderfully. No weird textures or tastes, just good food and good for you. I have also heard that ground flax seeds work well, but have not tried this yet.

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    • Can you please explain to me why these are bad? (xanthan and guar gums, I mean) I’m brand-new to this gluten-free thing, having recently been diagnosed with allergies in me and my kids. Dairy too, but that’s another matter. I’m trying to baby-step my way into this new lifestyle, as it has been hard on my kids trying to go cold-turkey off of all their favorites, like our home-ground/home-baked wheat bread, blueberry muffins, pancakes, etc. (not to mention all yogurt, cheese, kefir…) I understand the intent of this post, and agree in principle, but need some grace to get there. Anyway, I’ve been learning all about baking with alternative flours, and the gums are often called for in the recipes I’m seeing for flour blends. This is the first I’ve seen that they might not be good for us. Can you point me to some resources?

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  6. You can actually make your own potato starch and bean flour, but I absolutely agree with you. People make GF eating so complicated because they can’t fathom just not having a bread product with a meal.

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  7. Hi Kate, I agree that no one is going to improve their health by consuming gluten free processed food. Processed food is bad for health with or without the g-free label. However, I wish you could’ve simply made that fabulous argument without your rant about how gluten-free diets are so “mainstream” and that it’s an “easy way out”. Really? because most people I know would rather lose an eye then give up their ubiquitous, super convenient and delicious glutinous pizzas, croissants, bagels, cupcakes, triple layer cakes, etc. Have you ever met anyone who decided to give up gluten just for fun? or just bc their best friend did? Have you tried g-free products? bc they do not taste anywhere as delish as their more popular counterparts. in fact, most people suppress a gag when I share my buckwheat crackers with them.

    Here is why you are seeing more restaurants with g-free items on the menu: More and more people are being diagnosed now with gluten intolerance bc the science to support it came out not too long ago. And so more and more health practitioners are finally able to give their long-suffering patients an answer to their chronic fatigue, insomnia, bloating, migraines, unexplained inflammatory conditions, etc etc. It may seem like an easy way out and a fad to you but to those who’ve had many of their above symptoms diminish or disappear after doing the very challenging task of going g-free, a fad it is not.

    But yes: most people with such conditions will never experience true optimal health if they simply replace regular processed goods with g-free ones. Usually what happens (from what I’ve experienced in myself and seen on countless online forums) is that once a person gives up gluten, cravings for sugar and other processed foods diminish and a path towards eating whole nourishing foods usually begins. Haven’t you noticed this with your g-free friends as well? But! eating more healthily on a regular basis doesn’t preclude an occasional g-free goodie or meal in a resto with friends.

    If I sound a bit peeved it’s because almost every “…….” time I tell someone that I’m now g-free, they roll their eyes and I have to explain to them that since i’ve given up gluten, my insomnia and other symptoms have disappeared and my auto-immune condition has almost reversed, etc etc.

    I have dozens and dozens of friends and family … and guess what? Not one other person has decided to join me in my g-free easy fun. The few times a year that I go to a resto with g-free options — guess again? Not once has any of my undiagnosed mates chosen the g-free item on the menu.

    Best health to you,

    Chris

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    • Yes, I have been gluten and grain-free. I know how hard it is to eat out while “free” of anything as most people don’t understand. And still I see people picking up gluten-free products, making the mistake that they are healthier — in real life, on TV shows, etc. Some are just hoping that by replacing a few products with non-gluten varieties they’ll be healthier. Others actually try to go gluten-free. They’re not strict, obviously. But they do have the perception that “no/low gluten is healthier.”

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      • I have continued to say the exact same thing!!! I do not like being gluten free. it is a pain. Yesterday I tried to eat a hamburger with a “gluten free” bun and it killed my stomach. I also tried to eat a sandwich with gluten free bread. I rarely eat starches besides rice noodles, rice and quinoa, so my system doesn’t like all the other junk. Can you expound on a “naturally fermented sourdough” recipe? Are there any sourdough breads out there to purchase you think fit the bill? I really hate baking. I really want sourdough. It is a conundrum. :/

        Reply

  8. I actually think gluten is the healthiest part of bread. Take that out and it is just empty carbohydrates. Ever had a vegetarian burger or hot dog? Chances are it was made of GLUTEN. Did you get sick like a dog afterward? I certainly don’t. I think there are a certain (small percentage) of people who really are allergic to gluten – just like there are a certain small percentage of people who are allergic to strawberries. I’m not one of them and most of you aren’t either. I’m not going to cut out strawberries from my diet because it makes some other people sick. I’d gladly add pure gluten to my diet if it was accessible or even double or triple up on it and make my own bread that would be moist and delicious as compared to the nasty gluten free variety. I started consuming whey protein every day and love it. I don’t see the difference. Unless you are allergic, protein is protein.

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  9. We are gluten-free. I agree that it is a rather disturbing fad, and a lot of the GF products are so terrible for you. But, we are gluten free because both my daughters have reactions to them. My older one breaks out in raw spots and/or is up crying most of the night for 1-2 nights and the baby has solid bloody stools [she is exclusively breastfed] and cries for three days straight when I eat wheat (we just added it back in a bit to see if she could tolerated it… and I am about to go nuts).

    I want to go back on GAPS at some point, but being dairy, egg, and many nut free the thought is so overwhelming. So we are sticking to homemade gluten free foods for now (it is a blessing in a way that my older daughter can also not have corn and soy, that rules out 90% of the processed stuff.)

    Reply

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