Much like the fat-free craze that began in the 80’s, gluten-free has permeated all levels of the food industry. And just like the fat-free craze, it is touted as having benefits ranging from a cure for depression to fat loss. It is the latest marketing buzz word (or phrase in this case) that is stamped on everything from lip balm and coffee, to hamburger buns and chicken noodle soup.
Currently a $2.6 billion dollar industry in 2010, it is expected to reach $5 billion by 2015.
That is exactly what gluten-free is: an industry. It may have started as the only viable way to treat Celiac disease, but it has turned into the latest tool to convince consumers that they will lose weight by eating gluten-free foods. For those who are not allergic/intolerant to gluten, it’s simply another way to make you feel better about foods you shouldn’t be eating. Gluten-free pasta doesn’t miraculously turn into a healthy meal, instead it has become a bowl of rice and potato noodles that is even more processed than the original pasta, along with a price tag that can be as much as 200% of the original price.
Food products are the main items where the “gluten-free” stamp is placed. They are called food “products” because although they were once food, they have been so heavily processed, vitamin-fortified, and repackaged that they scarcely resemble the food in its original state.
Food manufacturers have also put the “gluten-free” stamp on food products that never previously contained gluten and then increased the price. In many instances the gluten is replaced with higher levels of sugar, so the trade-off isn’t exactly beneficial, especially for those who don’t suffer from celiac disease.
The majority of the time, “gluten-free” is code for processed junk that has been re-processed and packaged for the grocery store shelves. For those without Celiac, “gluten-free” is not a god-send that will cure your depression or help you lose 60 pounds. If you really want to try and fix these problems, get rid of the frozen meals and packaged food bars and start cooking your own meals from scratch. Anything that is sitting on a grocery store shelf has lost most of its original nutrients and has been replaced with artificial ingredients whether it is gluten-free or not.