Once in a while there’s an article or newscast that puts a bee in my bonnet. A week or so ago there was such a newcast by ABC’s Nightline which it highlighted gluten-free as a fad and dangerous to people who do not need to avoid it for medical reasons. (So seriously untrue it’s laughable.)
I’m not gluten-free and couldn’t go gluten-free healthily as I am personally allergic or intolerent to 99% of the gluten-free carb sources. I am however well versed in the healthiness of limited diets, myself having survived quite well for 2 yrs simply eating bison, tomatoes, wheat, basil, oregano, sea salt, lettuce, safflower oil, palm oil, fresh berries (strawberry, blackberry, raspberry), fresh pomegranates, grape juice, the occaisional molasses or cane sugar, occaisional potato or artichoke, and dark milk-free chocolate.
Don’t get me wrong though, I am not an advocate that everyone needs to be on such a limited diet, or that severely limited diets are healthy in the long run. I will attest though that my severely limited diet was at the time the healthiest diet for me as veering off that path would get me severely sick.
What I do want to talk about is this notion that removing any one food from a person’s diet is unhealthy. If you’ve lived for any length of time, you’ve seen the recommended diet for “healthy” change from “eggs are evil, avoid eggs” to “milk is evil” to “fat is evil, avoid all fat” to “sugar is evil, avoid all sugar”. In the USA, we’ve become a nation of fad-like food removal, so it seems mind-boggling to me that when it comes to food allergies or intolerances that there are “experts” out there still preaching that avoiding a certain food will leave you malnutritioned, and some that will go so far as to advise people to eat an allergen. (yes, I’ve met them.)
A couple of the points made in the Nightline report was that gluten-free was unhealthy because it was low in fiber, and notorious for causing vitamin B deficientcy.
I’m not sure on the notorious for Vitamin B deficientcy. The only cases of Vitamin B deficientcy I’ve personally heard of were from people who actually had Celiac in which absorbtion of vitamins and minerals is part of the condition itself. I do know that B12 is a problem for vegans and vegetarians, as it is only naturally available in meat products.
The “expert” on Nightline was agast that these gluten-free eaters were not getting the added vitamins and minerals in wheat products (mostly vitamin B). Oh no! It’s a sad world when the “experts” are convinced that the only way to get our vitamins is through adding into our foods synthetically. However did we manage to live all these thousands of years? Oh wait, its because most of these vitamins and minerals are naturally present in our other foods. Amazing!
The added vitamins to wheat products are Riboflavin, Iron, Niacin, Thiamine (see chart on processed wheat products with added nutrients VS whole grain wheat)
Riboflavin sources (Funny enough all are gluten-free)
Iron Sources (Also, all gluten-free)
Niacin Sources (also, all gluten-free)
Thiamin Sources (also, all gluten-free)
As for all the other nutrients in gluten-foods, there are plenty of alternate sources for those as well.
Now lets talk about this fiber issue. Enriched products that he seemed agast that gluten-free people weren’t eating, do not have much of any fiber. The fiber and most of the nutrients is stripped away during processing which is why they add those nutrients back in.
Most of our dietary fiber is not coming from gluten or shouldn’t be. There really isn’t much fiber in our breads, our hamburger buns, or our cookies, which is what gluten-free diets cut out.
Instead, most gluten-free diets replace those processed breads with beans, fresh fruit, fresh veggies. As such most gluten-free eaters actually end up getting much more fiber in their diet than their average American diet counterpart.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten to educate ourselves on exactly what foods are bringing to our table. The nutrients are all there, in many different sources.
Avoiding any one food isn’t harmful. Being ignorant about it is.