One of the most popular food trends of the recent past is the gluten-free diet, and it shows no signs of slowing down in popularity. Whether you follow a strict no-gluten diet or are curious what it's all about, here are the facts and a guide to my favorite gluten-free products on the market.
What is gluten, anyway?
Not quite sure what gluten actually is? Well you are not alone! There's a hilarious video from Jimmy Kimmel where he asked gluten-free people what gluten is and -- spoiler alert -- they weren't quite sure. Gluten is a protein found in certain types of grain -- wheat, rye, barley -- that can cause an autoimmune reaction in the small intestine, resulting in symptoms ranging from stomach pain to nutrient malabsorption. People that suffer from this are often diagnosed with celiac disease, which affects at least 3 million Americans nationwide.
Just how many people can't tolerate gluten?
A much wider audience is suffering from milder symptoms of gluten intolerance than previously realized -- nearly 18 million Americans. Those with even the slightest bit of intolerance are turning their focus to gluten-free foods to alleviate these uncomfortable side effects. Plus, almost 30 percent of the nation's population is interested in avoiding or cutting down on their intake of gluten, whether due to a sensitivity or because they think it will help with their overall health or weight loss.
Is a gluten-free diet right for you?
Stocking up on every food item that touts the "gluten-free" label seems like a no-brainer -- but that's not always the best-case scenario. Gluten binds foods like pretzels and cake together. Without it, food companies are forced to add extra fat and sugar to make up for the lack of texture and flavor. Hello, extra calories! Plus, gluten-free foods can be quite expensive, too.
Some Favorite Gluten-Free Products
It can be hard to find gluten-free snacks and products that don't break the bank or cause a thickening waistline, so I scoured market shelves to find only the best, tastiest and most nutritious gluten-free products out there. See some of my favorites below. For a complete list of my favorite gluten-free products (and where you can find them), check out my guide on bestowed.com. And rest assured, my selections are 100 percent impartial -- none of the brands featured paid to make my list.
- Explore Asian Organic Edamame Spaghetti
- Amy's Light & Lean Sweet and Sour Asian Noodle Bowl
- Vigilant Eats Superfood Cereal
- Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free Pancake and Baking Mix
- NibMor Dark Chocolate Bar
- Emmy's Dark Cacao Macaroons
- Wonderfully Raw Brussel Bytes
- Beanitos Bean Chips
- Rise Protein Bar
- The Yes Bar
Heather Bauer, RD CDN is a nationally recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur. She has published two best selling diet books; The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil and is the founder of Bestowed, the leading product ratings and reviews site built specifically for health-conscious consumers.