Gluten Free Doesn't Mean Healthy

June 4, 2011

More people are realizing that they are gluten intolerant, and the demand for gluten free products will keep rising. As a gluten free nutritionist, I'm thrilled about the level of awareness that is being brought to this serious issue that can destroy your health. The trouble is that many are just replacing every scrap of gluten with its alternative, and many of these products are filled with sugar, additives, and genetically modified ingredients. A similar thing happened with the vegan trend, and now the market is flooded with junk food from both of these categories.

Taking the gluten out of bread, cereal, pasta, and cookies does not mean that the other ingredients are from quality sources. You still need to read labels and limit sugar and additives. Often people who are celiac or gluten intolerant have impaired digestion and would do much better to eat a diet filled with whole nutrient dense foods. Save the gluten free pastries, pies, and cookies for a treat and use your new gluten free lifestyle as an excuse to eat a healthier diet. 

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Diane @ Balanced Bites 's picture

This is a great post to bring attention to one of the biggest flubs people make when going gluten-free... they just replace all of their gluten-containing refined foods with other refined foods. While that helps somewhat with the gluten intolerance or allergy, it certainly doesn't help their health as much as removing the refined foods (or even all grains as some of us do) would. I created a gluten handout for those who need help figuring out what foods contain gluten or what common ingredients or additives to look out for. Feel free to check it out! It's a PDF you can download and print from this page:

Evan Thomas's picture

Great point. I discovered my gluten intolerance 15 months ago. For the first few months I replaced that with as many different refined grains and products labeled "gluten-free" as I could find. I tried cutting grains and as much processed food as I could from my diet and replacing them with things like fruit, vegetables, potatoes and beans and have improved energy and health.

Ken's picture

The trouble is that gluten free doesn't mean good tasting. Nor does it mean something that is reasonably priced.

Katherine's picture

Hi Ken: Not necessarily :-) I have been gluten free for 8 years and do not miss the foods......well I would kill for a croissant and nobody has come up with a bagel worth eating but the breads are coming along (like Udi's and Canyon house) was wonderful to eat a hot dog on a bun though we still eat hamburgers on lettuce leaves.

The cost ..yea it is high but I gladly pay it as the manfg facilities have to be dedicated gluten free so there is no ability to share equipment as other food manufacturers do plus the cost for ongoing lab tests for gluten and the raw products do drive up the costs. But it 's my health so I gladly pay it.

Katherine's picture

First of all eating gluten free no matter what the food IS healthier for me as I no longer have an autoimmune reaction and shredded intestines.
Second of all if you are dietary compliant you will have complete healing (except for a small, small percentage of celiacs) and therefore have an uncompromised digestive system.

For the celiac and gluten intolerant one of the main issues is long term dietary compliance and if substitutes are available in the gf marketplace to support this major lifestyle change -not to mention the inconvenience factor- then I am glad there are gf alternatives sugar, non-gmo ,additives and all. I'm sorry but a quinoa chocolate chip cookie is not an adequate substitute for a warm fresh- from- the oven Tollhouse.
If one can eat a sandwich made from Udi's bread like a normal person or have a muffin/doughnut at work for coffee break like everyone else you will most likely have better long term compliance with the diet. And as far as the cupcake...for a celiac child to be able to take to school for a birthday party an ooey-gooey gf cupcake like the one pictured?... priceless.
Finally for those folks who are choosing to eat gluten free for other than medical reason they have the luxury of not having to worry about cross contamination. They have the luxury of eating “naturally” gluten free foods and being able to eat out in restaurants and attend family functions .. I am very glad that we true Celiacs have options and choices that we never had before . For true Celiacs and gluten intolerants a gluten free diet IS healthy.

shoshanna levy's picture

Sure, having a cupcake as a TREAT once in a while is great. BUT relying on muffins, pastries, bread, bagels is NOT a healthy diet for gluten free or otherwise. The whole point is that Americans rely on this stuff way too much. True celiacs need to avoid ALL inflammatory foods and eat gluten free junk food occasionally. SO MANY gluten free people chow those processed foods all day every day. I met someone who had a child on a GF diet but her eczema kept getting worse. She was eating a ton of Udi's One muffin had about 7 teaspoons of sugar! This will cause inflammation in anyone. The idea is to move away from relying on simple carbs for the bulk of calories. YES, have it as a TREAT once in a while. Eat whole grains, nuts, seeds, good quality fats and proteins for optimal health.

Katherine's picture

Well then say that..junk food is junk food but to mislead with a title of "gluten free doesn't mean healthy" is just awful and poor journalism at best. You are generalizing with your assumptions that "SO MANY gluten free people chow those processed foods all day every day." For the fad dieters trying to lose weight with gluten free I can see how this might happen or people choosing gluten free because they are being told that it is a better way to eat (which is untrue) perhaps THEY are exchanging garbage for garbage but that is not a function of the gluten free diet.