The Pitfalls of Gluten Free Products, are they worse than gluten products?
The Problem with Gluten Free Foods
The label “gluten free” has become one of the biggest buzzwords in the worlds of grocery shopping and nutrition. But is it really worth the extra money, or is there a significant catch you should be aware of?
In this article we will discuss the reasons you should avoid gluten free products under normal dietary circumstances.
The Glycemic Index, Blood Sugar, and Insulin
The problems of gluten free foods largely boil down to something we call the “glycemic index,” which describes how much a food will impact your blood sugar levels. The higher the glycemic index, the quicker your blood sugar rises, which can cause chronic inflammation and autoimmune issues.
The majority of foods, when digested in your body, are converted into glucose. Foods with a higher glycemic index are converted much faster, prompting a spike in blood sugar. After the spike comes a crash, as well. Eating foods high on the glycemic index can often result in having lower blood sugar levels than before you ate that high index food.
Anything with a glycemic index above 70 is considered “high.” An index of 56 to 69 is considered “medium,” with anything 55 and under being considered “low.” When trying to follow an anti-inflammatory diet, it is important to focus on these low-index foods. The higher the index, the higher the inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can lead to other diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- Autoimmune conditions
- Many more
Really, this list can go on and on. Suffering from chronic inflammation means you are living in an unhealthy state, which makes you more prone to other conditions.
High glycemic foods cause you to leave the fat burning zone, as well. When your blood sugar level is high, your body leaves your fat stores alone. When it is low, your body begins to convert your fat stores into energy. If you are trying to lose weight, foods high on the glycemic index can make your goal a lot harder to achieve.
In order to process glucose, your body needs insulin. As your glucose levels rise, so does your glucose to help metabolize it into energy. Glucose rises and falls very quickly, whereas insulin has a bit of lag time. So if you’re eating sugary meals, or foods high on the glycemic index many times a day, your insulin levels are likely remaining at fairly high levels. This can also cause those same chronic inflammation and autoimmune issues mentioned earlier.
Gluten-Free Substitutes and Their Glycemic Index
Looking at the ingredients list on gluten free products, you will see many substitutes for wheat products. These can include products such as corn flour, potato flour, brown rice flour, tapioca, and wheat flour.
Looking at the table below, you can see that wheat flour has a glycemic index of 74. Many of these substitutes have a glycemic index even higher than wheat. For example, tapioca has an index of 85, and rice flour has an index of 95. Many, many products contain rice flour.
Because these products are commonly used in gluten free foods, eating them will cause a spike in your glucose levels, leading to inflammation and its associated problems.
A Snickers bar, for example, has a glycemic index of 40. Why would that have a lower glycemic index? The answer is because it contains more than these simple carbohydrates. A Snickers bar contains fat (albeit unhealthy fats), as well as protein. Using the glycemic index will not necessarily tell you whether or not a food is healthy, but it can be a useful guide to finding foods to help you on the way.
Many gluten free foods contain a variety of these substitutes for wheat flour. For example, looking at some varieties of brown rice tortillas, the ingredients list begins with water, then tapioca, then brown rice. Lots of carbs, low protein and low fat comes with the price of higher blood sugar levels, and higher inflammation.
Similarly, examining some gluten free cookies, the ingredients list begins with sugar, then potato starch. Both high on the glycemic index. Gluten free whole grain pasta often contains a high amount of brown rice flour, as well.
What I want to drive home is that “gluten free” is not necessarily “healthier.” Many of these products are very high in carbohydrates and do not have very much protein or fats. It is largely a marketing scheme; one which results in much more misinformation.