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Are Gluten-Free Products Healthier?

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  • Are Gluten-Free Products Healthier?

    I bought some gluten-free beer the other day, just to give it a try, and I noticed that it had 160 calories and 14 grams of carbs. I believe that's comparable to many good micro-brews, which got me to thinking: "Why am I drinking this stuff, when I could have a great micro-brew with a similar nutrition makeup? Or, at least I could drink three MGD64s (or some other crappy beer) and wind up with a similar amount of calories and half the carbs."

    So I took a look around the grocery store for a few other gluten-free products, just to see what ingredients they had. Many of them contained ingredients that are not generally considered primal, such as rice (which confuses me, since I assumed something made with rice or other grains could not be gluten-free). Are many gluten-free products just as unhealthy as their counterparts? Or are there some additional primal benefits to gluten-free products that I am overlooking?

  • #2
    Gluten free products are designed to capitalize on people that think this is healthier. It can bring some health benefits for celiacs or those that are gluten sensitive. And as a treat it's not terrible. But eating Primal should be focused on whole foods.


    • #3
      Not all grains contain gluten--rice and corn are gluten free, although they have other things that can cause problems. Gluten grains are wheat and its relatives (rye, barley, spelt, kamut, etc.). Some gluten-free products are fairly benign as treat items, while others are still just toxic, processed junk with one less toxin. The elimination of gluten is a pretty important element of primal eating, but if it's replaced with other problematic foods, then that's not an improvement. So it really depends on the ingredients in the product: like anything else, read your labels and remember that any highly processed, packaged food isn't a really great primal choice, gluten or no.

      But remember that carbs aren't the whole story--the impact of gluten on your body is going to matter, so just looking at the carb count isn't going to tell you whether it's better for you. If you were going to have a gluten-containing beer, I'd suggest picking a good quality craft beer that is made with decent ingredients and that you'll really enjoy over having three MGDs just because the carb count is lower. I'm a celiac, so I don't have the option of having a "real" beer (sad face), but if I could have one as a non-primal treat, I'd go for the good beer and take the time to really enjoy it rather than just getting the crappy kind because it had less carbs.
      “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

      Owly's Journal


      • #4
        Have to agree with Owly.

        I've tried "gluten free!" products in the past and I either gained weight or ended up with a migraine. The ingredient list is usually pretty scary, either 47 different kinds of flours other than wheat or some chemical stuff that I don't even recognize.

        If you just want to eat a better form of crap (which is fine) then I guess they might be okay. Personally, I'd rather just go for something that admittedly isn't Primal in any possible way, but at least tastes good.


        • #5
          That processed gluten free stuff is crap. Two of the best gluten free products - Any type of meat and veg.
          Eating primal is not a diet, it is a way of life.
          Don't forget to play!


          • #6
            If you're gluten sensitive, you may also be sensitive to non-gluten grains/substances. I had tried going CW gluten free in the past and couldn't figure out why I felt worse. Had my chiro do a gluten cross-reactivity panel (Cyrex labs) and found out I'm highly sensitive to the most common gluten free frankenfood ingredient -- tapioca!

            Definitely agree with others to limit those types of products and safe them for treats. For me, there are times when spaghetti squash just doesn't cut it, so I splurge on a little rice pasta.

            As for the beer. I hear ya. I'm a mega-beer person. Or at least I was. I had the same internal dialogue with myself concerning GF beer and something light that's bastardized down. Carbs vs. not. Truly GF vs. "almost". I'm personally off beer right now. I love it too much. And it feeds my candida. Right now, I'm opting for some nice vodka on the rocks. In about 6 months, I plan to do a beer test. GF vs. a good craft beer and see how I feel and if it causes any other kinds of cravings. I don't think I'll go back to the mass produced stuff again. Do your own experiment and see how you feel.


            • #7
              They're both processed foods either way. Unless you're Celiac, I'd avoid them. If I wasn't, then on rare occasion I'd have a real bun with a burger. I can't do that so I grab a gluten free monstrosity, put some butter on it and microwave to make it soft. As far as beer goes, you won't find a "low carb" beer that has any form of real ingredients or significant alcohol content. A fermentable is a fermentable, at least to a degree. Just because a brewer pulls out Barley and Wheat and replaces it with Sorghum, Rice, Corn, Tapioca, Quinoa and/or Buckwheat, it doesn't mean that those ingredients somehow magically contain fewer calories or less alcohol.

              They are all better than drinking something like an MGD, Miller Light, Bud Light or whatever kind of crap beer is on the shelf at the local gas station. They're crap beer for a reason, and one of the largest reasons is because they're laden with chemicals to preserve freshness and whatever form of taste they claim to have. Drinking 6 MGD's because someone can have a larger quantity of beer on comparison to say 2 IPA's is along the same lines as eating a Whopper Junior because the calorie content isn't too bad and thinking it's healthy.

              Most all commercially available gluten free beer is going to contain sorghum and thus is going to be reminiscent of cider and have a green apple flavor. I find very few characteristics of gluten free beer that qualify as "beer". It's a completely different beverage in my opinion, but I have found that a lot of low dollar beer drinkers and cider lovers do love gluten free beer (and there's nothing wrong with that). Some of the "better" ones are Greens and New Planet, some of the worst are New Grist, Bard's and Redbridge (at least for those of us that have a huge craft beer love). Greens is brewed in Belgium, is really hard to find, and is usually $5-$6 a bottle. But, it's the closest to real beer without brewing it yourself without Sorghum.

              As far as real beer goes that is low gluten (under 20ppm) and is brewed with either no barley, or barley that has been removed after the brewing process, your first option is Heineken. I'm not a fan, but my understanding is that they use mostly corn and that it actually tests at like 8ppm. In the US, if you can find it in a can or on draft, it's going to be fresher than the crap sitting in green bottles. The second beer is Omission from Widmer which has gluten chemically removed after brewing. I've never tried it and can't get it here in the South anywhere, and if you're celiac, I wouldn't trust the process (sounds like you aren't). But it is a solid option. They test every batch for gluten before and after fermentation and you can find out the gluten content based on the batch date, online.

              Personally, I like some gluten free products better than their gluten counterparts, like gluten free pasta that has been done with Quinoa and Amaranth. It's more filling to me and the texture is just like trashy whole wheat pasta. As far as what a lot of that stuff does to my GI Tract, it's definitely much easier on it, but too much of anything isn't a good thing. I wouldn't view gluten free products as a free pass to make them a staple. I eat a lot of carbs for most people in the Paleo crowd (100-150 grams a day usually) but I still get my carbs from vegetables and sweet potatoes almost exclusively. Different people are going to be able to get away with different things. I can eat some gluten free brownies once a week and not have a set back. If I ate a regular brownie or drank a regular beer or two it's gonna be bad, really, really bad, personally, my main issues are bloating, joint pain, water retention and some minor GI issues. If I eat a ton of it, those symptoms are magnified.

              Point being, if you're sensitive to gluten, there is a huge difference between the ingredient lists in trash. Just realize they're both still trash. A gluten free bun made with rice flour can be just as trashy as one made with wheat. The only difference is what it's going to do to you. Most gluten free buns, for example, are going to have canola oil and some form of preservatives. In general, unless you prefer to be super hardcore and that's your goal and/or you're severely overweight, l prefer to live my life, have a normal (for me) damn burger on occasion and before I knew better, a real beer too. The other option is to make your own gluten free products for the rare times when you want bread or pasta, or if you lift a lot and you're trying to find creative options to get some quality carbohydrates in. Again, it just depends on sensitivity and level of carbohydrate paranoia one has.

              If you aren't celiac, drink a real beer on occasion. The brewing process DOES break down those amino acids, just not enough to ensure that the vast majority of celiacs aren't going to have a reaction to it. If you don't have full blown gluten issues, and you're going to drink, it's better to drink one real beer than 3 or 4 gluten free ones.

              However, if at the end of the day you're overweight, then disregard this entire post and avoid all of it including any form of alcohol.


              • #8
                Catharsis, I don't know if you can get it outside Canada, but the Messagere GF beers are pretty good, and none of them are sorghum beers (all rice/millet/buckwheat combinations). They're produced by a microbrewery in Quebec. I used to be a beer person before my celiac diagnosis--the fact that beer made me sick while other alcohol didn't was one of the clues that gluten was the issue. I've found the Messagere Red is pretty satisfying if I'm really missing beer. But it's not the same thing as a real beer for sure.

                And RitaRose, I know all too well that you can still get fatter eating gluten free. After my diagnosis, I mostly ate whole foods because I didn't know too much about gluten-free products and how to identify gluten in things I bought, so it was safest to just eat things like meat and vegetables because I knew they were safe. Then I discovered the wide range of GF products and learned how to bake gluten-free goodies. Also, those foods are much more available now than they were even five years ago. It's easy to forget that a gluten-free cinnamon bun is still a cinnamon bun.
                “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

                Owly's Journal


                • #9
                  Yeah, I just avoid them. About the only thing I eat now that screams "Gluten free!" is Rice Chex, and even then only about once a week or less.


                  • #10
                    It took finding PB to realize that I don't handle ANY grain based alcohol well. Beer or spirits. So I'll stick with tequila.

                    As for gluten free products...I stopped eating manufactured food period. I didn't come here to replace boxed food with gluten free boxed food.
                    *My obligatory intro

                    There are no cheat days. There are days when you eat primal and days you don't. As soon as you label a day a cheat day, you're on a diet. Don't be on a diet. ~~ Fernaldo

                    DAINTY CAN KISS MY PRIMAL BACKSIDE. ~~ Crabcakes


                    • #11
                      I have noticed that UK supermarkets are getting Free From sections and it's now possible to buy gluten-free organic Digestive biscuits (graham cookies). But it's still processed and I've even seen organic modified maize starch listed as an ingredient !


                      • #12
                        Gluten-free does not equate to exonerating.
                        Last edited by paleo-bunny; 07-01-2012, 03:05 PM. Reason: Omg - my spelling has gone to pot.
                        F 5 ft 3. HW: 196 lbs. Primal SW (May 2011): 182 lbs (42% BF)... W June '12: 160 lbs (29% BF) (UK size 12, US size 8). GW: ~24% BF - have ditched the scales til I fit into a pair of UK size 10 bootcut jeans. Currently aligning towards 'The Perfect Health Diet' having swapped some fat for potatoes.


                        • #13
                          They're healthier for sure, but not necessarily healthy.


                          • #14
                            The "Gluten Free" label is a bit of a pet peeve of mine really.
                            Over here, things sold as "fresh produce" in Deli's, Butcher shops, Farmers' Markets etc don't have to be labelled, and so usually aren't.
                            So I was quizzing my local butcher one day about what was in his sausages.
                            "Oh, they're gluten free!" he eagerly and helpfully tells me, but he couldn't tell me anything else about their ingredients.

                            Yeah, great. How does telling me one thing that isn't in a product, help me to identify what is?


                            • #15