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The market for gluten-free foods in the United States has exploded in recent years, reaching $4.2 billion in 2012, and it is expected to exceed $6.6 billion by 2017. According to a report last year by Packaged Facts, consumers view gluten-free products as generally healthier than conventional fare, and that-plus the fact that more people are becoming aware of and/or diagnosed with celiac disease and gluten intolerance-is fueling the trend.
But people with intolerances or allergies aren’t the only ones who may benefit from going gluten free. In his new book Gluten: Zero Global, Rodney Ford, MD, known as “Dr. Gluten,” presents information suggesting that gluten may harm everyone to some degree-even people who aren’t gluten sensitive. He urges consumers to purchase foods that contain as little gluten as possible for long-term health.
There are two big issues facing consumers who want to cut as much gluten as they can from their diets. First, there is no official definition of “gluten free” in the United States. In January 2007, the FDA proposed that foods could be marketed as gluten free if they contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) gluten, but that rule has never been finalized.
Even though the rule is not official, most manufacturers of gluten-free products adhere to the FDA’s proposed guidelines. However, numerous gluten sensitivity experts-as well as one of the FDA’s own reports-warn that some people have adverse effects and uncomfortable symptoms from ingesting considerably lower amounts of gluten than the proposed 20 ppm.
The other issue for gluten-free consumers is contamination. Ironically, gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours are most at risk, since they’re often processed and stored in the same facilities as the gluten-containing grains wheat, rye, and barley. The safest way to avoid accidental gluten contamination is to forget about these foods altogether, and eat only unprocessed meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, and fruit, which are naturally gluten free and not processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains.
But if you don’t want to go quite that far, there are other ways to make sure you’re getting the least amount of gluten possible in your diet. Here’s how.
- Look for foods certified by celiac organizations: the Celiac Sprue Association (csaceliacs.info); the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Quality Assurance International (celiaccentral.org); and the Gluten Intolerance Group (which runs the Gluten-Free Certification Organization or GFCO program, gfco.org). These programs certify foods that test below 5 or 10 ppm gluten. By studying product lists from these sites, you can find new and different foods to try. A few product examples are Tia’s Bakery baked goods (made with almond flour or coconut flour); Silver Hills Gluten-Free Omega Flax and Chia Chia bread; and Chic Naturals chickpea snack foods.
- Be careful when purchasing food from bulk bins or deli counters-two areas of a store that are ripe for cross- contamination from gluten-containing items. Opt instead for sealed, pre-packaged naturally gluten-free foods.
- Consider buying The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide by Triumph Dining to help you make more informed choices. It provides information on more than 44,000 products from hundreds of brands.
- If you are not sure about a product, contact the company and ask questions. That’s the best way to get the latest information.
Broiled Lemon-Garlic Halibut*
When in doubt about what to make for dinner, go with the safest bet: meals that include only naturally gluten-free foods, like this delicious recipe.
2 6-oz. Wild Alaskan halibut fillets
2 Tbs. organic pasture-raised butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp. dried basil leaves
Unrefined sea salt and pepper to taste
1½ tsp. fresh minced parsley, optional
2 tsp. lemon juice, optional
- Place halibut skin-side down on greased rack of broiler pan, or in baking dish.
- Combine butter, garlic, and basil in small saucepan. Heat over low heat, 1-2 minutes, until butter is melted and garlic is softened and fragrant. Spoon melted butter mixture over filets.
- Broil halibut about 10 minutes, or until it flakes easily when tested with a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with parsley and lemon juice if desired.
*Recipe reprinted from the Going Against the Grain Group, 2013.
PER SERVING: 307 cal; 39g pro; 14g total fat (8g sat fat); 1g carb; 98mg chol; 102mg sod; <1g fiber; <1g sugars
Melissa Diane Smith, a nationally known writer and holistic nutritionist who specializes in personalizing the gluten-free diet, offers long-distance telephone counseling and coaching services to clients across the country. She is the author of Going Against the Grain and Gluten Free Throughout the Year: A Two-Year, Month-to-Month Guide for Healthy Eating. To learn about her free newsletter, visit againstthegrainnutrition.com. For information about her books, long-distance consultations, nutrition coaching programs, or speaking, visit melissadianesmith.com.
Copyright ©2012 Melissa Diane Smith. This article and recipe may not be reprinted on other sites without written approval and permission from the author. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.