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

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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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 November 11, 2019

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

4. Feed Your Brain

Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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6. Write it Down

If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

7. Listen to Music

Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

8. Visual Concepts

In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

9. Teach Someone Else

Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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