To gluten or not to gluten?

To gluten or not to gluten? That is the question that millions of Americans are now asking themselves. You can’t walk into a grocery store or restaurant these days without having to choose between one or the other. The signs are everywhere. “Certified gluten-free” this and “100% gluten free” that. “Hold the gluten” here and “gluten warning” there. Dizzying displays of gluten-free products on store shelves and café counters. What is going on?

Products, products, everywhere but not a drop of gluten

There is no doubt that the recent explosion of available gluten-free foods has been a godsend for people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks a protein called gluten. Gluten is found in many grains like wheat, barley, and rye, and if consumed it can lead to widespread inflammation in the gut and debilitating pain. Patients can also develop joint pain, fatigue, and anemia, and if left untreated the condition can be life-threatening. The treatment is to avoid all foods with gluten, which can be incredibly difficult given how much grain is in the typical American diet.

But why the recent obsession with going gluten-free in America? Is it because there has been a sudden rise in the number of people with celiac disease? Or is it just the latest diet craze that has turned into a multi-billion-dollar business?

Scientists at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School wanted to find out, so they looked at data on 22,278 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2009 to 2014. They found that while the prevalence of celiac disease remained fairly stable over those five years, the number of people who followed a gluten-free diet without having celiac disease more than tripled.

Is going gluten free (if you don’t have to) good for you?

That means that there are lots of people who don’t carry the diagnosis of celiac disease who are buying gluten-free products. But why? The researchers suggest that some gluten-free consumers may not have celiac disease but may have gluten sensitivity, and notice that when they eliminate gluten they feel better. That’s certainly understandable.

But there also appears to be a significant number of people who think gluten-free foods are healthier. Truth is, they’re not. I have interviewed experts in the field who say for the average person who doesn’t have gluten issues, gluten-free foods may actually be less healthy than the real thing. They may contain more sugar and fat to make them taste better and you miss out on some nutrients by avoiding whole grains in your diet.

And while gluten-free foods are more palatable than they were 10 years ago, they often don’t taste that good. Plus, gluten-free products tend to be more expensive.

So if gluten doesn’t make you sick and gluten-free foods can be less healthy, taste bad, and cost more, next time you’re faced with the question of whether to gluten or not to gluten, you might be wiser to reach for the whole grain bread.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Micah 2:3 Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity From which you cannot remove your necks; And you will not walk haughtily, For it will be an evil time.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

James 4:13-17 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”           

Psalm 10:3-4 For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, And the greedy man curses and spurns the LORD. The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him All his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Isaiah 10:15-16 Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it? That would be like a club wielding those who lift it, Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood. Therefore the Lord, the GOD of hosts, will send a wasting disease among his stout warriors; And under his glory a fire will be kindled like a burning flame.

Deuteronomy 32:18 “You neglected the Rock who begot you, And forgot the God who gave you birth.

Deuteronomy 8:11-17 “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies,     

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