Have you found yourself wondering if you should give the whole gluten free thing a try?
With lots of conflicting information out there (along with a whole bunch of misinformation), it can be difficult to know whether to keep that box of whole wheat spaghetti on your grocery list or trade it for a gluten free alternative.
Let’s clear a few things up.
First, gluten is a substance found in wheat, barley, and rye. Some people have to avoid it for medical reasons – those with celiac disease, wheat allergy, or gluten intolerance. That means that most breads, pastas, crackers, baked goods, and lots of other foods are off-limits.
Food companies, restaurants, and plenty of other creative folks, however, have created tons of gluten free products in recent years. Many of them actually taste pretty good. And now people who have to avoid gluten can enjoy safe alternatives of their favorite foods.
But the term “gluten free” has also become synonymous with healthy. It’s got people to thinking that those gluten free cookies are actually nutritious, or that they’d be better off swapping that loaf of whole wheat bread with a gluten free option.
Gluten free doesn’t necessarily mean healthier. In fact, some gluten free products are more processed than their gluten “full” counterparts.
It’s Not About the Gluten
For those of you who don’t have to avoid gluten out of necessity, it’s not really about the gluten.
I want to propose a different way of thinking about it.
Rather than debating between those gluten free or gluten “full” crackers, what if you replaced them with something that doesn’t come in a box…I’m talking whole, real foods.
I’m not saying you should never have pasta, crackers, pizza, etc. ever again. It is absolutely fine to have those things from time to time, whether or not they’re gluten free.
But you’re going to be better off eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer grains. While whole grains do contain some nutrients, they’re not nearly as nutrient dense as fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, your body isn’t able to absorb or process the nutrients in grains as well as those in fruits and veggies.
As for gluten free alternatives, some are healthier than others. There are some great products made from nuts, nut flours, and seeds that taste good and are reasonably nutritious. But there are also a lot of products that are highly processed and loaded with sugar and refined oils. In those cases, gluten free or gluten “full” doesn’t really make a difference.
If you’re looking for a healthy snack or meal, start with real foods. If you’re curious about what that means, you can read about that here.
Basically, we recommend first choosing foods that are going to give you the most bang for your buck in terms of nutrients.
Below are some great resources for snack and meal ideas. Many of the recipes you’ll find are grain free and gluten free, but most importantly, they will leave you nourished and satisfied. Enjoy real food that tastes good!