Only about one in a hundred of us suffers from celiac disease, a condition that prohibits the ingestion of foods containing gluten. And yet food products proclaiming to be gluten-free are flooding the market, and are some of the hottest sellers on supermarket shelves today.
Gluten, for most of us, is a totally harmless protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. But for that 1% of the population with celiac, gluten can cause painful stomach distress and lead to long-term health problems. That tiny 1% minority has been very vocal in recent years in their demand for more foods without gluten, and manufacturers have responded with a growing number of gluten-free products.
As reported in a story by Katy Steinmetz for TIME magazine, you can now find gluten-free foods everywhere. Your favorite store stocks everything from Betty Crocker gluten-free cake mixes to gluten-free Redbridge beer from Anheuser-Busch and many more in between. Some restaurants now have an entire section of their menu devoted to dishes without gluten.
Americans spent a record $2.6 billion on gluten-free foods in 2010. But, as Steinmetz points out, it is the bandwagon-jumping trend followers who are now driving the movement, rather than the celiac sufferers.
A recent survey showed that only about 10% of people who purchased gluten-free products did so because they are gluten-intolerant. Most of those surveyed simply interpreted “gluten-free” as meaning the product was somehow healthier, higher in quality or maybe something to help them lose weight.
Hype and publicity have given the words “gluten-free” some real cache in the marketplace. It has simply become trendy to buy products emblazoned with those two magic words—and more and more food manufacturers want to get their share of that gluten-free pie.
To be fair, though, gluten-free products have indeed made great strides in quality and flavor in recent years, and The Food Channel has taken note of that.
Here are some of the gluten-free products we like. You’re welcome to try any of them—whether or not you need to for medicinal purposes.
- Choco Mint cookies from Flourless Bliss
- Frieda’s Garlic Delight garlic spreads
- Flamous Brands Spicy Falafel Chips
- Beef pot pies from Twin Hens Artisan Comfort Foods
- Cherry chocolate chip cookies from Tu-lu’s Bakery, NYC
- Divvies chocolate bars
- Organic Nectars’ Pistachio Raw Agave Gelato
- Baked Lentil Chips from Mediterranean Snacks
- Seasonings from Bagel Spice