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Most Gluten-free Products Fall Short on Nutrition

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.

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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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6 Responses:

 
Paul
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said this on
31 Aug 2015 10:10:42 AM PDT
Very good info.

 
Jeff
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said this on
31 Aug 2015 10:12:23 AM PDT
I don't see the relevance of comparing nutritional value between GF and regular food. To focus on health, you avoid junk foods like potato chips, whether or not they are GF. To avoid the side effects of gluten, including bloating, even for those who do not have celiac, you eat GF. The two have nothing to do with each other.

 
Rick
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said this on
31 Aug 2015 12:35:33 PM PDT
BINGO, we have a winner!!!

 
Laura
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said this on
31 Aug 2015 4:40:51 PM PDT
"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 GF or not, but the most nutritious foods are still gluten free and they are still the vast majority of the foods out there.

 
Ed Epifani
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said this on
31 Aug 2015 7:27:05 PM PDT
Thank you., thank you! GF 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.

 
Busby
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said this on
01 Sep 2015 6:19:50 AM PDT
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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Cycling Lady, LMAO at IBeStumped! So true. Yes, he is trying the band aid approach it seems. That's probably the most frustrating thing of all. So yesterday I get a call back from his office and they say to stop taking the Viberzi and switch back to Imodium! I reminded them that Imodium didn't work, I had already used it 8 days with no changes. His assistant informed me that that is all he can recommend at this time until he sees me at my next appointment which is 5/24! I live near Chicago and I am about to make an appointment to go to the University of Chicago hospital which is the top celiac research hospital in the country. Hopefully they can give me better answers.

7Hi jen and welcome No-one can diagnose remotely via nterwe posts but if there was such a game as celiac / gluten sensitive bingo, I would be calling 'House!' having read your account above... Lots of things fit the pattern as I'm sure your lurking has revealed. It's a tricky condition to diagnose however so you may have a little wait before you join the coolest club in town and get your funky celiac membership card For now it's really important that you stay on gluten. Keep eating it as accurate testing requires it. Ask your doctor to check the boxes for celiac testing alongside your liver blood tests. There should be enough in your history to get this without hassle but if they're reluctant INSIST and don't be afraid to assert your reasonable suspicion and wish to clarify and exclude. A good liver specialis will be aware of the possible links so you should be ok. If not gt second opinion. Ask for a full celiac panel as there are variety of tests. Find further info here There's a lot to take in, but be positive, I think you are on the right track and if so, you could soon be feeling better than you ever thought possible!

Hello, I am in a job that I travel every 3rd week...It gets challenging becuase many times I am doing audits of warehouses and they dont even have a cafeteria. I usually bring gluten-free protein bars as a back up if I have to miss a meal and then eat when I get back to the hotel. Just a suggestion because they certainly fill me up....Have a safe trip...Kelly

Hello all, I'm a new member here but have lurked for a while. I'm looking for some advice regarding my medical history, possible symptoms of celiac and next steps. General info: female, low level smoker, drink alcohol, aged 32. I started having bad gastro issues when I was around 17. Since then I've consistently suffered from chronic diarrhoea, frequent discomfort in the tummy area, feelings of dehydration despite drinking at least eight glasses a day and frequent fatigue for no real reason. In 2008/9 I visited the doctor as my diarrhoea was having an effect on my studies at the time. The doctor tested me for allergies; eggs, fish, gluten and lactose and did a "standard" blood test. Everything came back fine except my liver results, which were elevated to double (I did not the see the results for myself so can't say which enzymes etc). I was told to drink less and take Imodium. The doctor implied that perhaps I was stressed and / or anxious and, still being young plus a student who regularly went out drinking, I accepted this advice and carried on with my life. I would here add that I am not an unusually stressed person - in fact, learning to deal with my unpredictable bowels has forced me to be quite a laid-back person! Fast forward to 2016. I had been living with my partner for two years by this point who had noticed my bowel habits and informed me that this was definitely not normal. He encouraged me to try out a gluten free diet since I was apprehensive about visiting a doctor only to be fobbed off with Imodium again. I did the diet as strictly as a newbie can for around two months before we set off travelling. During the diet I noticed that after a couple of weeks of extreme tiredness I felt quite a lot better - I kept a food journal at the time which showed that I almost immediately had diarrhoea once after eating an ice-cream, i felt bloated and unwell after an attempt to make oat muffins (maybe i didn't cook them very well though!) and I felt bloated and had diarrhoea after eating some fish fried in flour (We made a mistake in ordering them but I didn't want to complain). My partner also reported that my mood swings (which I admit can be a little unpredictable) were much better. Once we started travelling I gave up and ate what I was given as we were staying with friends etc much of the time. Toward the end of our trip I started to feel extremely tired, to the point of having to stay in for "rest" days, and my guts were very unhappy. I chalked it up to irregular eating patterns, too many beers and late nights in general. During the trip I also had an extreme hangover after drinking wheat beer. And, while of course I accept that any overindulgence can make you ill, I really felt that that level of hangover was quite out of the ordinary. Finally, I developed a strange lump under my armpit during this period. Now back at home, I decided to go to the doc and check out the odd lump under my armpit. The doctor was pretty confident that it was nothing to worry about cancer-wise but she ordered a battery of blood tests just to be sure. The lump is fine (good news) but the results showed elevated GGT, high-ish ALT and normal AST liver enzymes plus signs of dehydration in red bloods / higher (but not concerning) levels of white bloods. I'm scheduled to go back for another blood test to double-check liver function and discuss results - if it is again high she will send me for a ultrasound. Does this history chime with anyone here? I know that the correct course in basic health terms is to stop drinking for some time (easily done) and stop smoking forever (easy to say...) but I cannot help but think that something else is going on here. I will discuss this with my doctor and make clear that my bowel issues have not been resolved and that the initial IBS diagnosis wasn't based on any thorough testing so to speak. In the meantime - does anyone have any advice for me in times of avenues to research or experience of similar symptoms? Gluten remains in my diet but in all other respects it could be regarded as very healthy, I think anyway... (pescatarian, plenty of fruit and veg, little to no sugar on a daily basis, not much dairy to speak of...) Thanks in advance and sorry for bending everyone's' ear about this... I guess it's just taken a long time for me to admit I might be sick and I need some help. Jen

Wish I could give you a hug. Unfortunately I know how that feels with Neurologists, Internists, Endocrinologists, Rheumatologists, GIs..... I got so tired of crying my drive home after refusing yet another script for Prozac. I do hope your GI can give you some answers even if it is just to rule out other possible issues. Keep on the gluten and we are here for you.