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Are Gluten-Free Products Healthier Than Regular Foods? Probably Not, Study Finds

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Are Gluten-Free Products Healthier Than Regular Foods? Probably Not, Study Finds

These days, more and more people are claiming that a gluten-free diet can help with bloating, exhaustion, and headaches. It seems that the number of people suffering from celiac disease has risen dramatically in the last 60 years and, according to some researchers, nobody is sure why.

Most “celiac sufferers” nowadays have not had a proper diagnosis, but have diagnosed themselves using Google. In many cases, there is no need to remove gluten from the diet. The spreading of the fad has led health and food industries to jump on the bandwagon, laughing all the way to the bank.

Celiac disease statistics

People with a true gluten problem make up just one per cent of the global population. Just one in a hundred people are likely to have problems eating foods which contain gluten (a protein). They usually have had a proper diagnosis, including a gut biopsy. Any food made from wheat, rye, and barley —  couscous, pasta, cakes, bread, cereals, crackers and muffins — are likely to cause stomach problems ranging from diarrhoea to vomiting. These people have to stick to a rigid gluten-free diet and be very careful about what they are consuming. They usually eat eggs, fresh meat, potatoes, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.

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Gluten-free is a fad

The gluten-free diet seems to be a trend that will take time to die down. Some celebrities have made public their passion for gluten-free diets. In Italy, the incidence of celiac disease has been taken seriously. Today, gluten-free pasta and pizza are readily available. The Mediterranean diet has been adapted to fit with these dietary restrictions.

What is the problem?

People have become aware of this fad because of massive hype and advertising. The real cause of celiac disease is that the gluten protein contained in all those pastries and pasta causes an auto-immune reaction. The body treats gluten as an enemy and reacts accordingly to get rid of it. It can be very painful and rather uncomfortable.

Are gluten-free foods any healthier?

Many people who have not had a proper diagnosis see gluten as the number one enemy and mistakenly think avoiding it will solve all their health problems. They purchase gluten-free foods, which can be quite expensive.

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Are these foods really more nutritious and healthier? The research suggests that they are not.

Dr. Jason Wu and his team led research on this at the University of Sydney’s George Institute for Global Health. They found that there was little nutritional difference in the 3,200 gluten-free products that they tested. These products had lower levels of protein and fewer vitamins and minerals, which were compensated for with higher amounts of salt and sugar. This suggests that the gluten-free products are not ideal from a nutritional point of view. But, for the genuine celiac sufferer, they give extra options that can be made up for by opting for healthier choices when eating other foods.

“Many people need gluten-free food, but there is a growing group who are only trying it for its apparent healthiness.” – Dr. Jason Wu

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Beware of the labels

Food labels are a two-edged sword. They can provide useful information on what you are about to eat, but they can also be misinterpreted. Advertisers have no qualms about misleading the public. There is a growing perception that gluten-free foods are healthier.

There is also another problem in that when people see healthy labels, like “bio,” “organic,” “low-fat,” and “gluten- free,” they tend to eat a lot more than they normally would. This is known as the “health halo” effect.

“Misinterpretation by consumers, especially of junk foods, that gluten-free means they are healthy is a real concern.” – Dr. Jason Wu

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The old rules still apply

Unless you are a celiac sufferer, you can ignore all those gluten-free food labels and just follow the good old rules. Avoid any highly processed foods and go for whole grains with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

If you suspect that gluten intolerance may be at the root of your ill health, why not get a proper diagnosis? You could solve a lot of problems and save a lot of money by not unnecessarily buying gluten-free products. Don’t be swayed by all the celebrities that have told the whole world about their dietary concerns.

Featured photo credit: Gluten-Free Banana Bread with Yoghurt and Berries/Alpha via flickr.com

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More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 13, 2022

10 Cheap And Amazing Honeymoon Ideas

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10 Cheap And Amazing Honeymoon Ideas

A honeymoon is important.  The wedding is over.  The months, or even years, of stress and planning are finally over.  It’s time for the two of you to relax, settle in, and start enjoying your time together as you embark on your first journey as a family.

To make the most of this time for the least amount of money, it’s important to focus on what you want out of a honeymoon.  This isn’t your typical list of touristy honeymoon locations everyone goes to.  Rather, it’s a list of cheap honeymoon experiences a couple can enjoy together, regardless of where it’s at.

1. Camping

A week long camping trip is a fantastic way to see how you mesh together as a couple.  You’re put in a low impact “survival” situation where it’s just the 2 of you and nature.  You have a chance to see how your new spouse handles themselves when left with the basics of life.  There are amazing national parks all over the United States where you can camp for a week for $20-30, disconnect from technology, and enjoy some of the natural wonders our nation has to offer.

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2. Staycation

You don’t have to go anywhere for a honeymoon.  In fact, the tradition of taking a honeymoon vacation is a relatively new one.  Prior to the 19th century, a honeymoon involved staying home together for a month to get to know each other physically.  Think of how blissful it could be to take a full month off work, disconnect from the outside world, and focus entirely on projects together.  You may not be wowing your friends and family with pictures of some exotic location, but they’ll be envious of your escape from the rat race nonetheless.

3. Island Getaway

People tend to overspend on their honeymoon vacations to Hawaii, Tahiti, etc.  Going to these places doesn’t have to be expensive.  You don’t need to stay in a 5 star resort when you’re on a Best Western budget.  You’re there to be in the atmosphere of the island, not a hotel room. Book a cheap flight and sleep in a hotel alternative, on the beach or in your car.  It’s the view in paradise that really matters.

4. Fancy Resort

Book an expensive resort, spa, or retreat in the city you live in.  While this may seem counterintuitive as a cheap destination, when you consider your savings on airfare and other travel costs, you can afford to be treated like royalty within your own city limits.  If you book a honeymoon package, you’ll end up with a lot of free amenities and extra attention.  There’s no need to fly halfway across the world to live the good life.

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5. Road Trip

The journey is often more fulfilling than the actual destination.  If you fly out to some exotic locale, you’ll be stuck on a plane for 8-30 hours.  Rent a luxury car, pick a handful of places you each have always wanted to visit, and go on an adventure.  You can keep food costs down by packing your own snacks, but it’s always a good idea to sample the local delicacies wherever you go, even if it’s only a few states over.

6. Charter a Boat

If the ocean is your thing, a week-long cruise can cost you $1500-$3000 per person, depending on the destination.  You also have to factor in travel costs to and from the cruise, alcohol, souvenirs, and on-shore excursions.  You’ll also be surrounded by people.  For the same price (and often much cheaper), you can charter your own boat and enjoy the experience in private.

7. Las Vegas/Atlantic City

If gambling is your thing, these are the places to do it.  Which one you choose depends on your preference, budget, and proximity.  The way to make this vacation cheaper is to gamble smart.  Stay away from low odd tables (i.e craps, roulette) and read up on the MIT blackjack strategies to beat the house.  If you do it right, you can win enough for a free trip (and gain a valuable team skill in the process).

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8. Themed Retreats

There are weeklong retreats all over the world where you can fully immerse yourselves as a couple into a hobby you’re both passionate about.  Go on a yoga/meditation retreat, a ranch, a vineyard/farm, a backpacking adventure, treasure hunt, or whatever you’re into.

9. Working Honeymoon

Your honeymoon doesn’t have to be a vacation.  For a truly memorable experience, dedicate a week to a charity or volunteer organization.  You can drive out to a campground to help restore it in the offseason.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to volunteer to help out your local animal shelter, plant trees, help the homeless, etc.  Use the time to do something together as a couple that will fulfill you spiritually while contributing to the community.  Just because you’re on a honeymoon doesn’t mean you can’t be productive.

10. Festivals, Fairs & Special Events

Every city, state, and country has festivals, fairs, and special events.  Find one you’re interested in.  If you time your wedding right, your honeymoon can be a trip to one of these festivals.  Burning Man, SXSW, Bonnaroo, the Renaissance Fair, regional harvest festivals, Mardi Gras, New Years Eve in Times Square, a movie premiere, or whatever you’re into.  If you plan your honeymoon at the right time in the right place, the possibilities are endless.

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Featured photo credit: Josue Michel via unsplash.com

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