As more food choices labeled as “gluten-free” show up on store shelves across the state, a warning that just because it’s free of gluten doesn’t automatically mean it’s a healthy choice.
The founder of Mary’s Gone Crackers, Mary Waldner, welcomes more options for those, like herself, who have celiac disease. But she says the label can blur the line for consumers when it comes to nutrition, as many gluten-free foods are high in sugar to improve the taste. “I think so many gluten-free companies, they don’t care what’s in the food. I see it as an opportunity to really look at our food and see what’s in it, and not replace it with gluten-free junk. ”
The gluten-free industry is now pegged at more than 23-billion dollars annually – with sales up more than 16 percent over the past year (Nielsen).
Gluten-free often is characterized as a diet trend.
Waldner thinks it’s here to stay, whether or not the food choices are made because of a doctor’s note. She adds that because of the new awareness of gluten, the public is learning that decades of eating processed foods come at a cost. “Our guts are in bad shape. We’re eating such highly refined foods. We have been doing damage to our digestive system, and I think wheat is a very hard thing to digest.”
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is one of the world’s most common genetic autoimmune disorders, affecting about one-percent of the population.