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5 Reasons to Avoid the Gluten-Free Aisle

October 7th, 2019

As the gluten-free lifestyle becomes more popular, you may be wondering if it’s right for you. Fortunately, there is a world of nutritious and delicious, gluten-free foods waiting for you. However, there are some different approaches to removing gluten from your diet — and not all of them will truly benefit your body. That’s why I recommend supporting your healthy digestion with digestive enzymes, such as my Complete Enzymes, regardless of whether gluten-free is new to you, or whether you’ve been gluten free for years.

While gluten-free foods including gluten-free bread, gluten-free crackers, and other gluten-free processed foods, have certainly brought relief to a number of people, many notice little to no improvement in their symptoms after going gluten-free. In this case, the underlying issue is not the gluten-free diet itself, but with gluten-free packaged foods.

Some gluten-free diets include switching from gluten-containing products to their gluten-free counterparts, while continuing to neglect wholesome and fresh foods such as grass-fed meat and poultry, and organic fruits and vegetables.

If you’re confused about what kinds of foods you should be eating for optimal gut health, and you’re tired of experiencing symptoms associated with leaky gut, IBS, autoimmunity, and other chronic illness, my free training will help you find the right diet to repair your gut so that you can feel your best again. For now, you can discover how gluten-free packaged foods may not be the best addition to your gluten-free diet.

The Problem with Gluten-Free Foods

The problem with gluten-free products is that they’re even more refined than their gluten-containing counterparts. I encourage all of my patients to avoid processed foods, because the original food loses a great deal of nutrients during the refining process. In order to produce gluten-free flours, manufacturers use other grains and starches such as flours made from rice, potatoes, corn, and tapioca. While these flours are naturally free of gluten, they’re still highly refined grains that can cause a spike in blood sugar higher than that of their whole-grain counterparts.

In fact, gluten-free products are often very low in a number of vitamins and minerals:

  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Niacin
  • Thiamine
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin B12
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc

If you notice your symptoms are not improving or actually getting worse after eliminating gluten, there could be a number of factors at play.

5 Reasons to Avoid the Gluten-Free Aisle

1. Gluten-Free Products Can Contain Gluten

Gluten-free products can still contain some gluten. Even certified gluten-free foods can contain up to 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten per serving. To put this amount into context, a 1-ounce (28.35 grams) slice of gluten-free bread containing 20 parts per million gluten would contain 0.57 milligrams of gluten.1 This is a minimal amount of gluten if you only consume packaged foods occasionally.

However, if you eat these processed gluten-free foods every day, you can potentially expose yourself to unwanted amounts of gluten. If you consume non-certified gluten-free foods, then you’re really just taking the company’s word for it and assuming that their products are free of gluten. It’s best to check the label to see if a gluten-free product is produced in the same facility as wheat, or other gluten-containing grains, and keep in mind that products are rarely labeled to specify the precise range of gluten they contain.2

2. Gluten-Free Products Lack Nutrients

I strongly believe that gluten is the most inflammatory food that you can consume, but that doesn’t mean that everything in the gluten-free aisle is necessarily healthy. When grains are refined in the manufacturing process, many vitamins and minerals are lost along with it. If someone who avoids gluten is relying on foods from the gluten-free aisle, the lack of fortification may increase the risk of micronutrient deficiency.3

Some commonly consumed packaged gluten-free foods are higher in fat and carbohydrates and lower in protein, iron, and folate compared with regular products.4 Gluten-free products are considerably less nutritious than real, wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and lean, organic sources of animal protein.

3. Gluten-Free Products Are High in Sugar

Whenever an ingredient is removed from a food, it’s often replaced with another ingredient for stability, shelf life, or texture purposes. For example, sugar-free foods contain sugar alcohols, and fat-free foods are often produced with man-made fats and extra sugar.

Gluten-free foods are no exception to this rule, as they’re often laden with extra sugar. Despite the health halo associated with gluten-free products, gluten-free prepackaged foods are not “better for you” than their gluten-containing conterparts. In fact, the amount of sugar in both gluten-free and gluten-containing foods is concerning, especially in products targeted toward children. 5 Sugary breakfast cereals aren’t good for anyone, even if they are gluten-free. 

Excessive amounts of sugar can contribute to insulin resistance and weight gain, and ultimately suppress your immune system. In addition, too much sugar can feed gut infections like Candida and SIBO, and lead to many more health concerns.

4. Gluten-Free Products Contain Preservatives

Preservatives increase the shelf life of a product and ensure that it’s resistant to mold and bacteria. While it’s very convenient to have food that lasts a month, it adds unnecessary chemicals and compounds to our diets. Many packaged foods found in grocery aisles contain harmful additives that will increase their shelf life, and gluten-free packaged foods are no exception.

The food we eat was at one point a living organism, be it a plant or animal, and it is very natural for our meat, vegetables, grains, and fruit to decay after being harvested. 

5. Gluten-Free Products Use Refined Oils.

Inexpensive oils are often added to many gluten-free products to moisten the product and improve the texture. Gluten-free foods contain more saturated fat, and a higher fat content overall than their gluten-containing counterparts.6 Refined oils such as vegetable, canola, rapeseed, safflower, and sunflower oils are all high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. A diet higher in omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids can lead to increased inflammation.

What To Do Instead

One of the most important things you can do is to get your energy from wholesome, organic, fresh foods such as organic fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds (if you’re not following AIP), healthy oils (avocado, coconut, etc), grass-fed beef, and wild-caught salmon  — all of which are free of gluten by nature.

There are also a ton of resources available to help you ditch gluten and processed foods for good by incorporating wholesome, delicious, and easy recipes into your everyday life. Not to mention, all of the alternative ingredients to cook with are becoming more accessible than ever!

Once you’ve learned the ins and outs of gluten-free cooking, making all of your favorite dishes without any gluten can become a normal part of your healthy lifestyle. And you can feel good knowing your food is helping to relieve symptoms of inflammation, providing you with bountiful energy, and setting you on the path to optimal health. Eating foods rich in essential vitamins and minerals is the first step to achieving optimal health. Being able to absorb those nutrients through the digestive process is just as important. That’s why I recommend using digestive enzymes to support optimal nutrient absorption.

However, there could be another culprit in addition to gluten that is harming your gut and your health. If you’ve already removed gluten from your diet, and you’re in the process of weaning yourself and your family away from gluten-free products, you may find that your body is sensitive to other inflammatory foods such as dairy, eggs, and soy.

If this is the case, you can discover more steps to remove one or all of these from your diet and see if your symptoms improve with the help of my free training. It is designed to help you treat your body with compassion, patience, and understanding. It’s going to take time to adjust to a gluten-free diet, and I want to be there for you the whole way.

Article Sources

  1. https://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/how-much-gluten-is-20-parts-per-million/
  2. https://www.verywellhealth.com/why-gluten-ppm-numbers-matter-562484
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30257431
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26067071
  5. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/2/e20180525
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28851025

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