How many times in the last year have you heard someone announce that they’ve gone gluten-free? I can name at least five yoga-legging clad friends with shiny hair who avoid gluten like the plague. The gluten-free diets has exploded in the last few years – the ‘free from’ aisle is one of the fastest growing supermarket sections and the sales in gluten-free products has sky rocketed. While the number of diagnoses of celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder where the body cannot digest gluten) are on the rise, people often self-diagnose gluten restriction because they think it’s healthier.
But how much do people really understand about what going gluten-free really means? In a recent study, participants were given two of the same cookies, one labelled gluten-free and the other labelled conventional. A huge number of participants rated the gluten-free cookie as healthier but couldn’t perceive any difference in taste or likeability (because they were the same cookie…). This just shows that people make assumptions based on labels and the misconception that gluten-free = healthy.
Jimmy Kimmel also noticed this fad too and challenged people who’d gone gluten-free to describe what gluten actually is..
Since so many products now come with a gluten-free option, it’s easy to think that they are a more healthy alternative. But this idea that gluten-free option is healthier or make you lose weight is simply a result of misleading (and rather ingenious) marketing. Following a gluten-free diet is only beneficial if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. For the rest of us choosing the gluten-free option WILL NOT help you lose weight.
From a psychological perspective, it makes complete sense why the world has gone gluten-free. Societal pressure to be skinny and have a flat, bloat-free stomach means we will try anything that can get us their the fastest. Although over time a clean, balanced diet can help us achieve healthier outcomes, people are impatient and want a quick fix. The Gluten-free diet is pitched as exactly that, a fast method to avoiding the ‘bad’ parts of food.
Yes, cutting out processed carbohydrates all together may aid weight loss (though can severely effect physical and mental health problems). But cutting out specifically gluten does not. Gluten-free cake is still cake. Infact, gluten-free products are often packed with more sugar and saturated fat to improve the taste. Eating gluten-free crisps, rice, bread or any processed food will still be bad for your health and probably contribute to weight gain.
Now I’m in no way saying that everyone should eat gluten or that people are making up their intolerance, but the idea that gluten is unhealthy or makes you fat is simply wrong. Unless you’ve been tested and found to be gluten-free intolerant, going gluten-free is pretty bad for you. Gluten is found in many whole-grain foods that contain many vitamins, minerals, and fibre that make up a healthy balanced diet. People who lots of gluten are less likely to develop diabetes and have high blood sugar. Whole grains also contain phytochemicals which fight cancer and heart disease. Eating gluten-free food for the normal population takes away the nutritional benefits as it denies bodies of complex and rich carbohydrates necessary for hunger, digestion, energy and exercise.
Last week I went to a great event on bread run by TOAST – a company trying to change the way people think about food. The discussion stressed how important it is to make bread in the natural way, using four simply ingredients, rather than buying processed versions from supermarkets. So I was inspired to make my own 4 ingredient bread, it wasn’t even as much effort as I was imagining and tasted fresh and lovely. This bread recipe is so simple and made in the honest method that has worked for decades, with no added sugar or preservatives. I topped the rustic bread with this edamame and avocado dip or it can be served in the avocado skin which makes a nice snack or starter for a dinner party.
For the bread:
300g spelt flour
200g wholemeal bread flour
1 packet dried yeast
Splash olive oil
1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Add large pinch of salt
2. Knead the bread in a bowl on on a surface for about 8-10 mins. The dough will be fairly wet but keep going until the yeast becomes activated. You can tell this has happened when the dough becomes really tight and literally feels alive.
3. Place in a covered bowl and room temperature and leave for 1 hour. The dough should double in size.
4. Coat your tin in olive oil and place the bread in the tin. Leave to rest for another 30mins
5. Bake the bread for 25-30 mins at 180. Take out when a nice thick crust has formed.
6. Serve with edamame and avocado hummus!
For the edamame and avocado hummus:
1 bag edamame (can be frozen)
1 chopped onion
2 garlic gloves
1 teaspoon paprika
1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and blitz
2. Season with paprika, salt and pepper