Thursday, September 21, 2023
25 C
Brunei Town
- Advertisement -

Is gluten-free bread really healthier than regular bread?

Alice Callahan

CNA/THE NEW YORK TIMES – At my grocery store, the bread selection stretches across an entire aisle. And among those amber waves of bread loaves, bagels and buns are a few gluten-free options, which can cost about twice as much as their wheat-based counterparts. Are they a more nutritious choice?

As is often the case with nutrition questions, the answer will depend on your individual circumstance, said spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a registered dietitian in Atlanta Jerlyn Jones.

But for most people, choosing a gluten-free bread instead of a wheat-based bread is not an inherently more nutritious option, she added.

And, gluten-free breads can be harder on your wallet, she said, since they are often more expensive and have a shorter shelf life.

Gluten is a protein found in the grains of wheat, barley and rye. In traditional bread made from wheat flour, gluten forms a protein network that makes dough cohesive and stretchy and gives bread that quintessentially satisfying, chewy texture.

But gluten or other components of wheat can cause health problems in some. For the estimated one per cent of people worldwide who have celiac disease, a serious autoimmune condition triggered by eating gluten, the protein causes intestinal damage that can impair nutrient absorption and lead to symptoms like diarrhoea, weight loss, fatigue, anaemia and a blistery, itchy rash. The only effective way to manage celiac disease is strict and lifelong gluten avoidance.

For others with milder wheat-related sensitivities, eating the grain doesn’t cause the intestinal damage found in celiac disease, but can cause gastrointestinal discomfort and symptoms like fatigue and headache that usually go away when wheat is avoided.

It’s not clear how many people have this condition, called non-celiac wheat sensitivity, but it may be more common than celiac disease.

A third, much less common wheat-related condition is a wheat allergy, which can cause allergic reactions like diarrhoea, vomiting, facial swelling or difficulty breathing within minutes to hours after eating wheat.

If you have celiac disease, wheat sensitivity or a wheat allergy, going with a gluten-free bread is clearly the better choice. But in a 2017 survey of 1,000 people in the United States (US) and Canada who purchased gluten-free groceries – conducted by the food and beverage ingredient supplier Ingredion – 46 per cent said they bought those products for reasons other than a medical condition.

Among their top motivations: Wanting to reduce inflammation or consume fewer artificial ingredients, believing that gluten-free products were healthier or more natural, and thinking that such products would help with weight loss.

However, none of these beliefs are true, said registered dietitian and assistant professor of nutritional medicine at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center Anne Lee. “Typically, the gluten-free products are higher in fat, higher in sugar, higher in salt and lower in fibre and your B vitamins and iron,” she said.

Making bread without gluten is a technological challenge, and manufacturers tend to rely on ingredients like refined rice, potato or tapioca flours, which contain much less protein and fibre than wheat flours, Dr Lee said.

- Advertisement -

Latest article