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Unless you have celiac disease, you might as well eat bread. According to a new study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, gluten-free foods are more expensive than regular foods and aren’t any healthier.
That means going gluten-free might not be the healthiest swap you can make. In fact, some past studies have shown just the opposite. Gluten-free diets haven’t shown any positive effects for people who aren’t allergic to the compound, but have shown additional health risks instead.
“The main people who benefit greatly from gluten-free eating are those with celiac disease and those with a gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity,” Mitzi Dulan, RD, CSSD, told The Daily Meal. “Just because a food is gluten-free does not mean it is healthy.”
This new study looked closely into the specific qualities of gluten-free foods — paleo breads, gluten-free pretzels, and chickpea pasta, for example. They found that these replicas of normally glutinous foods often contained more saturated fats, sugar, and salt than the regular items. They also found a lower amount of fiber and protein. Relying on these foods for most of your diet is a poor choice for a few reasons.
For one, the low fiber content could introduce some digestion drama. Maybe no one warned you that the Whole30 or keto could make you constipated — but if you aren’t careful to replace the fiber you would have consumed from glutinous grains, it definitely could.
Dulan also brought up the artificiality of many of these foods. “It is true that many gluten-free foods can have some of the nutrition stripped from the products and may have more artificial ingredients,” she said, “but it really depends on the food.”
The processed foods meant to mimic and replace other gluten-filled foods are often fluffed with additives and other ingredients to change the flavor and texture to feel like gluten. There’s where you might run into a problem.
“Many whole, nutrient-rich foods are naturally gluten-free,” Dulan explained. So if you are dedicated to eliminating gluten, it could be wiser to stick to these foods instead.
The study also found that gluten-free foods were 159 percent more expensive than regular food. So going gluten-free could damage more than your health — it could also hurt your grocery budget. For some smarter swaps, click here to learn how to eat healthy on the cheap.