Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Prepared Gluten-Free Food Rant

I am a fitness devotee. I go to the gym as often as I can, I know that I have body image issues from being overweight as a child (as a result, in part, of my undiagnosed Celiac Disease), and I am conscientious of what I eat. I try to eat healthfully, and with a mind towards how the food I am eating was cultivated and prepared. On the subway I was reading a Shape magazine that I picked up. On page 167 of the March 2008 issues I found thit, in the Eat Right News section:
Q. It seems gluten-free
foods are being sold
everywhere. Are
they better for me?
A. Probably no, says Lara
Field, R.D., a dietitian for the
Celiac Disease Center at
the University if Chicago:
"Going gluten-free may be the hot diet
trend, but there's no science showing
that doing so offers any nutritional
benefits for healthy women."
These specialty products are designed
to help people suffering from celiac
disease, a disorder that makes the
body unable to digest gluten, a
protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.

For the rest of us, however, eating
a gluten-free foods can cause weight
. "Not only are these products
often high in fat, calories, and refined
carbohydrates, they're usually lower in
fiber, whole grains, and nutrients," says
Field. Better to leave them on the shelf.

This leads me to one of my beefs about mainstream gluten-free foods. If these food are high in refined carbs, and often sugar, where are our other options? My first hint at my gluten intolerance was when I went away to college and put myself on a low carb diet and the rashes I had suffered all my life started to get better. Through trial and error, my unhelpful doctors visits and a lot of research I was finally able to obtain a positive diagnosis for celiac disease. Living in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere Ohio I had, as far as I could tell, no gluten-free options for things like bread and pasta.

I developed my own diet that was gluten-free and made me feel healthier than I ever had before. My mom is wonderful, and she searched high and low for gluten-free foods for me to eat when I went home to visit. My first time home I was so ecstatic to have bread and cookies again. I devoured them. And felt absolutely awful. I had to adverse celiac related affects, but I still didn't feel well. By the time I went back to school I had gained some weight and felt pretty bad about it.

Once I returned to my own style of eating I felt better and lost the weight, and I haven't looked beck. I have some type of sweet tooth or something, but when I eat things like bread or cookies I just can't stop myself, my body doesn't like it, I feel like I'm eating food and getting now nourishment. All in all , not a good combination.

When I moved to New York there were so many more options, Whole Foods had compiled a respectable, if not great, gluten-free section. And in alot of health food stores the raw products, at least the ones without oats, are also gluten free. I like the raw products especially because they are usually 'green' as well as organic and fair trade.

Now I read labels much more closely, looking not only at ingredients but for caloric value, fat content and sugars (carbs) I find that many of the prepared gluten free products leave a lot to be desired in the nutrition department. These food are dietetically safe for us, but they're not really all that good for us from a nutritional stand point. If, as this snippet says, the gluten-free foods in stores aren't to good for all the other folks out there, what makes them so good for those of us with gluten intolerances? I will continue to search for healthier alternatives to these prepared items, and to experiment in creating my own.

(Thank you for bearing with my rant)

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