Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

Ingredients wrecking your gluten-free diet

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Look at you being all gluten-free and stuff. Whether it’s because you have celiac disease or you are simply weeding out an ingredient whose Latin derivative means “glue,” your dietary path is seemingly on the straight and narrow, right?

Maybe.

When it comes to gluten-free foods, one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding those items is a gluten-free label equals a healthy gluten-free food. Not the case. In fact, while the growing awareness of gluten-free diets has been largely beneficial to people who suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it has also caused large manufacturers to latch onto the fad-like nature of the “gluten-free” label. The result has been a lot of processed, packaged crap disguised as healthy food.

The top three offending ingredients in gluten-free foods? Corn, sugar and processed vegetable oils. Read below for the details about how these ingredients are thwarting your best gluten-free efforts.

Corn

Like its gluten buddy, you will seemingly find corn in everything once you start looking. Beauty products, toothpaste, chewing gum, cereals, supplements and medications, just to name a few. Another way it’s like gluten? Corn goes by many names when it’s listed in a label’s ingredients section, making it tricky to spot. Words that may indicate corn include: Dextrose, natural flavorsome free-flowing agents, caramel, distilled white vinegar, xylitol, modified food starch, vitamin E, ascorbic acid and many more.

So, why does corn affect our digestive systems? For starters, corn contains cellulose, a fiber the human body doesn’t easily break down. What’s more, some 90 percent of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered (hello GMOs!), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (ers.usda.gov). That means ingesting corn and processed food items that contain corn will continue to result in symptoms similar to those you may have experienced before going gluten-free, including leaky gut, poor nutrient absorption, diarrhea and bloating.

If you are occasionally incorporating packaged gluten-free foods into your diet, then be sure to choose products from companies who steer clear of corn, specifically that of the GMO-infested sort. Bob’s Red Mill, Enjoy Life Foods, Applegate Farms, Thai Kitchen, Annie’s Naturals and LARABARS are just a few companies who produce gluten- and corn-free products.

Sugar

If you read my column last week about sugar-loaded coffee drinks, then you know the average American is consuming about three pounds of sugar per week (about 194 grams per day), in spite of the World Health Organization’s recommendation we consume less than 10 percent of their total daily calories from sugars. That’s only about 50 grams of sugar per day.

Why is this a problem? Well, in addition to digestive upset, the consumption of excess sugar can cause adrenal fatigue, diabetes, poor nutrient absorption, thyroid issues, infertility, mood swings, weight gain and a host of issues.

“A serious problem arises when you overeat junk food and sugar because you’re literally feeding the bad guys,” said Jennifer Fugo, author of “The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank” and creator of Gluten Free School (glutenfreeschool.com). “Your diet helps to dictate a specific environment in your belly that is not friendly to the bacteria you really want there. Thus, the good guys begin to die off, making way for the troublemakers. Unfortunately, most gluten-free products are pretty high in sugar as well as high glycemic starchy carbs that set you and your gut up for failure. A brownie’s still a brownie, gluten-free or not.”

Plus, like corn, sugar is a large source of GMOs. According to the USDA, sugar beets account for about 55 percent of the sugar produced in the United States, 95 percent of which has been derived from genetically modified crops. How do you know if a product contains GMO sugars? If a label does not specifically state that a product has been made with ‘pure cane’ sugar, chances are likely it contains genetically-engineered beet sugar, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Vegetable oils

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation (westonaprice.org), “Most individuals with digestive disorders have some inflammation which is exacerbated by an overabundance of Omega-6 fatty acids. Thus, a major step to regaining digestive health is avoiding all commercial liquid vegetable oils. Trans fatty acids also contribute to inflammation so these must be avoided also.”

That list of oils includes:

Vegetable

Soybean

Canola

Corn

Cottonseed

Soybean

Safflower

Sunflower

Peanut

Grape

Oh, and guess what? We’re back to the whole GMO issue again. According to the EWG’s website (ewg.org/research/shoppers-guide-to-avoiding-ge-food), “Consumers should assume that vegetable oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil and corn oil are genetically engineered.”

The USDA estimates about 90 percent of American oilseed production is soybeans, which are almost entirely genetically engineered. The remaining 10 percent of oilseed crops include cottonseed, sunflower seed, canola and peanut. What’s more, canola and cottonseed oil primarily come from genetically-engineered varieties, and more than 90 percent of corn oil is derived from genetically-modified corn, according to the EWG.

Instead of these digestive-disrupting options, choose healthier oils, like extra virgin olive, macadamia, avocado, hazelnut, flaxseed, almond, coconut, walnut and sesame for cooking, and making homemade dressings and marinades.

What about you? Have you noticed continued digestive upset after going gluten-free? Email me at afterglo@daytoncitypaper.com and tell me about it!

Traditional
Balsamic
Dressing
(gluten-free, grain-free & vegan)

Makes 2 servings

Trade icky store-bought dressings and whip up your own in a matter of minutes! Drizzle it on top of a yummy salad and enjoy.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic or shallot
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme (optional)

Directions

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Serve over salad of choice, storing leftovers in airtight container in the refrigerator.

Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at 

afterglo@daytoncitypaper.com.

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About Caroline Shannon-Karasik

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Caroline Shannon-Karasik

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