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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Most Gluten-free Products Fall Short on Nutrition

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 08/28/2015 - Perhaps unsurprisingly, a study of over 3,200 supermarket products finds gluten-free foods aren't a healthier choice than their non gluten-free counterparts.

    Photo: CC--Whatsername?If you have celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity, gluten-free foods are necessary and beneficial, but the new study suggests that, nutritionally speaking, there's no evidence that they're any healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts.

    The research looked at 3,200 food products on Australian grocery shelves, and found little or no nutritional difference between regular foods and comparable gluten-free items. Now, that doesn't make gluten-free products unhealthy, just no better than their gluten-containing equivalents.

    But if you are not celiac or gluten-sensitive, then you're probably spending more money to get the same nutrition, and not getting any health benefits. Strangely, plenty of people seem to believe that sugary treats such as cakes are 'healthier' if they are gluten-free.

    The study compared supermarket products in 10 categories: bread, breakfast cereal, dry pasta, cereal bars, cakes, sweet biscuits, ice cream, potato chips, processed meats, and candies.

    The study team assessed foods using the Australian Government's Health Star Rating, which rates food by nutritional value. The rating system awards one star to the foods with the least nutritional value, and five stars to those with the most.

    Basically, when they crunched the numbers using the Health Star Rating, the team found no significant difference between the ratings of gluten-free foods and their regular alternatives.

    For me, though, the real takeaway is that there's a good amount of processed food out their, gluten-free or not, and you're likely healthier eating fresh, whole foods than anything processed.

    Or, alternatively, it takes a bit of effort to maintain a healthy diet, whether you are gluten-free or not. Share your thoughts below.

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    I don't see the relevance of comparing nutritional value between gluten-free and regular food. To focus on health, you avoid junk foods like potato chips, whether or not they are gluten-free. To avoid the side effects of gluten, including bloating, even for those who do not have celiac, you eat gluten-free. The two have nothing to do with each other.

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    "Most gluten free food" includes all fruits and veggies, meats and fish, all, dairy products, beans, potatoes nuts and seeds. Anything processed is going to be somewhat short on the nutrition we need to be our healthiest, whether gluten-free or not, but the most nutritious foods are still gluten free and they are still the vast majority of the foods out there.

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    Thank you., thank you! gluten-free food made from finely ground grains, especially baked goods ,are not nutritionally dense. They have a very low ANDI score, meaning few nutrients for the amount of calories. I love them, but they are my special occasion "junk food". Weddings, birthdays, funerals. It would be my own if I ate them all the time.

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    I never buy what I consider junk food, anyway. The idea of stuffing my face with overly sweet empty calories never did appeal - even before celiac. Potato chips are an occasional treat, and processed boxes of food can never give me the flavor and texture that I get from freshly made food. BUT I am grateful that if I do need a substitute I know I have some choices. Perhaps the greatest strength of this article is that all packaged food needs to be more nutritionally acceptable.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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