(Health Secrets) Are you eating gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan? Maybe a better question would be, Do you know what is contained in that gluten-free pizza, veggie burger, or soy protein you are eating? These stylish ways of eating are being embraced by people whether they have food allergies or not, under the mantra of being healthy. But products designed to appeal to those eating alternatively are often packaged, processed, and contain more than about half a dozen ingredients. And they are probably no healthier than traditional processed foods, even if they doesn’t contain gluten or animal based products.
A large segment of the health conscious who are trying to eat well have little awareness of this fact. Instead, they assume that products that are free of certain buzz word ingredients are better for health than traditional foods. However, more often than not, quite the opposite is true. Foods lacking the basic traditional ingredients required to produce a certain flavor or texture typically contain a host of other additives designed to mimic the original ones. These additives are often much worse for you than foods made with traditional ingredients.
For instance, think about meatless meat products, such as sausage or hamburger patties made from soy protein. These foods are typically marketed as being a healthy alternative for people trying to avoid meat-based products. But soy-based meat substitutes are not only loaded with highly-processed soy, which typically comes from genetically-modified (GM) soybeans, but they are also filled with flavoring and preservative chemicals, such as modified starches, various derivatives of monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial colorings (to make them look like actual meat), synthetic vitamin fortifiers and other chemicals.
Gluten-free often means refined sugar, synthetic additives and processed oils
The same is true for many gluten-free baked goods. Since gluten-free flours typically lack the chewy texture inherent in wheat-based products, they too are often loaded with additives that try to mimic these flavors and textures. And while some gluten-free products admittedly still contain only the most natural alternatives, many commercial varieties contain a laundry-list of unusual ingredients, many of which are likely of GM origin, that attempt to make them palatable for the average person.
“Few realize that when it comes to gluten-free baked goods such as bread, snacks, and desserts, gluten free food is not as nutritious as ‘regular’ food,” explains the blog ElanasPantry.com. “That’s because gluten free foods are generally made with ingredients such as rice, corn, potatoes, sorghum, tapioca and millet, which are higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein and other nutrients than wheat flour.”
In addition, gluten-free foods also commonly rely on processed sugars and oils to make them taste more like the originals they have been designed to replace. This can lead to carbohydrate overload, and can actually be a cause of diabetes and other metabolic disorders later on in life. Some gluten-free products even contain blatantly harmful ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and carrageenan, both of which are used to improve the texture of gluten-free products that would otherwise be dry and unappealing.
“You can’t assume a food or a product is nutritious simply because it is gluten-free,” says nutritionist Monica Reinagel, host of the podcast Nutrition Diva. “Now we have a bit of a trap. Now it is easy to buy a lot of gluten-free junk food.”
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