When walking down the aisles of the grocery store it is very plausible to find foods with five or more different health claims on the packaging. One claim has been growing in popularity: gluten-free. But what does the label actually represent? Who is this label for? Don’t worry we are here to answer 5 questions people have about gluten-free.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that can be found in different types of cereal grains. It is responsible for giving structure to baked goods and thickening foods. It is most commonly found in wheat, barley and rye.
Who does gluten affect?
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, people who have celiac disease have a negative reaction when gluten is ingested. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack the small intestine when gluten is consumed.
People who don’t have celiac disease but do have a negative response to gluten may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. People with this sensitivity experience similar symptoms as celiac disease but don’t suffer from the same intestine damage.
Are gluten-free foods healthier?
While a gluten-free diet is necessary for the health and well-being of those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, some people are jumping on the diet for perceived health benefits. This can actually be nutritionally detrimental to your health, as these foods provide fiber and important vitamins and minerals.
Going gluten-free can result in nutritional deficiencies. Fortified breads and cereals are a main source of Vitamin B in American diets. Fiber deficiency is also a concern in gluten-free diets.
What foods have gluten?
There has been a surge in labeling foods gluten-free in the grocery store and many restaurants have gluten-free options. This is very beneficial for people who need to avoid the protein.
In August of 2013, the FDA issued a ruling that defined the term gluten-free for voluntary label use in foods. Food products that bear the a gluten-free claim on the label must meet the rule’s requirements.
What foods can be labeled gluten-free?
According to the FDA, foods may be labeled if they meet the definition of gluten-free. The FDA defines gluten free as food that is either inherently gluten free or does not contain an ingredient that is a gluten containing grain.
Since foods that are inherently gluten-free may be labeled as such you are only paying more for the label. For example meat label gluten-free is a label on a food item inherently gluten-free. Some foods that are inherently gluten-free may be labeled to provide confidence in consumers who want to avoid gluten. It would be advantageous for those consumers to recognize the foods in which gluten is found.
When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, everybody has to choose the best diet for themselves and their families.
For more information see:
Gluten-Free Diet Guide, Fact Sheet No. 9.375 Food and Nutrition Series|Health, March 2014
Nutrition and Health Info Sheet: Gluten For Health Professionals Produced by: Center for Nutrition in Schools Department of Nutrition University of California, Davis August 2016