Today I am featuring a guest post by my friend and Extension colleague, Dawn Earnesty, MS, RDN with Michigan State University Extension. Dawn is a mom, wife, extension professional, and a student! I met Dawn through NELD (National Extension Leadership Program) (and have blogged about our experiences here and here) and have enjoyed getting to know her better personally and professionally. Dawn has a great passion for foods and healthy eating and today she provides more information on gluten free myths!
As a reminder…Gluten is a protein that is common in the diets of U.S. consumers. It is found in wheat, barley, rye, and their grain relatives. Gluten is what helps bread expand while the dough is rising and hold its shape while it’s baking and after it cools. It’s also what makes bread chewy.
Gluten free, dairy or lactose free, low or no carbohydrates, fat free, no Trans-fat, increased protein? These are some of the catchy nutrient descriptions that are used to market diets and food products. Moreover, we often hear a lot from the media and pseudo medical professionals about the wonderful benefits of either decreasing or increasing the amount of a specific food nutrient, which may create two groups that advocate opposing views.
Subsequently, the public becomes confused with the inconsistent health information. This may lead to some people following a restricted diet when it is not necessary or someone not following a diet restriction when they are at risk or have a health condition that requires a specific diet. This is why it is really important to seek out information from professionals that are knowledgeable in evidenced-based nutrition or simply, a registered dietitian nutritionist before starting any type of restricted diet. These professionals have the knowledge to guide you in making sure the lifestyle changes you are following are appropriate for your situation. So what are some of the known information regarding a gluten-free restriction?
Gluten free food products are now very popular: Sales of these products are expected to raise $10-15 billion within the next two years. While there are people who actually have celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there are more who follow a gluten-free diet for reasons other than gluten sensitivity.
When food companies remove ingredients or nutrients from foods, they may add other items that may not provide health benefits. For example, some gluten free product alternatives may likely be processed, higher in calories, higher carbohydrates and lower in nutritional value. People who do not necessarily need to follow a gluten free diet may be better off eating whole grain food products that provide them nutrients such as fiber, not found in gluten free foods. For more information on gluten download the Facts about Gluten sheet.
When it comes to nutrients, gluten free does not necessarily mean healthier: A good example to look at is the nutrient value of a gluten free cinnamon roll versus a regular cinnamon roll.
(Regular) Pillsbury cinnamon roll:
One roll with icing
(Gluten free) Udi’s cinnamon roll: One roll with icing
Total Fat: 5 grams
Sodium: 340 milligrams
Total carbohydrates: 23 grams
Sugars: 9 grams
Total Fat: 6 grams
Sodium: 370 milligrams
Total carbohydrates: 50 grams
Sugars: 30 grams
Some of the gluten free products, however, have no difference in nutrients as shown in gluten free bread versus regular whole wheat grain bread:
(Regular) Nature’s Own 100%
Whole Grain Bread:One slice
whole grain bread: One slice
Total Fat: 2 grams
Sodium: 150 milligrams
Total Carbohydrates: 19 grams
Sugars: 3 grams
Fat: 2 grams
Sodium: 130 milligrams
Total Carbohydrates: 11 grams
Sugars: 1.5 grams
People who enjoy choosing gluten free foods, even when it is not medically necessary must remember to still make half of their plate fruits and vegetables. It is also necessary to choose lean proteins and provide variety and balance within snacks, beverages and meals. It is most beneficial to focus on our whole diet intake rather than one single nutrient.
Consumers also need to look into health claims, even when sources may appear trustworthy. We are constantly bombarded with information from both sides of the argument. It is up to us to be informed and always rely on evidence-based information. Sometimes recommendations change and that is fine. If we do not understand the given information, we can always seek assistance from a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Looking for gluten free recipes and baking tips? Check out the UNL Food page!