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Are gluten-free food products healthier than wheat products?

Nancee Jaffe, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Gluten-free food products may not be healthier than wheat products. B vitamins and iron are stripped from wheat during processing, but then they're added back by law to improve its nutritional profile. Gluten-free products, unfortunately, are not included in that law, so any vitamins and minerals that are stripped out of the grain during processing do not have to be added back. Only a handful of the gluten-free manufacturers out of the hundreds upon hundreds of gluten-free manufacturers enrich their products.

In addition, the different types of flour that are used in some products -- for instance, gluten-free pretzels -- are not high-quality flours. They contain cornstarch and potato starch, which are broken-down carbohydrates that have no fiber in them. For the most part, these are processed white flours that just happen to be from gluten-free grains.

Gluten helps to hold food products together. To replace the gluten in a gluten-free product, manufacturers use different binders, fillers and stabilizers to keep the product together and cohesive so that it is similar to the corresponding product that contains gluten. Unfortunately these binders and fillers can cause all sorts of gastrointestinal distress.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.