New research from Safefood has shown that many gluten-free snack foods are not as healthy as people think.
The gluten-free diet has exploded in popularity over the last number of years, and while we know there are many people who follow it based on their doctor's recommendations, new research has revealed that 92 per cent of people who buy gluten-free foods have not been medically diagnosed with coeliac disease or a medical intolerance.
If you fall into that 92 per cent, then we have some bad news for you: a new research report launched by Safefood has shown that many gluten-free snack foods are high in fat and sugar, meaning they're not the healthy option, as many people might think.
The research revealed that there was a serious misperception of the health benefits of gluten-free products with more than one in five people (23 per cent) believing that gluten-free products were lower in fat, 21 per cent thought they were lower in sugar and 19 per cent considered a gluten-free diet was a healthy way to lose weight.
As part of the Safefood report, 67 gluten-free products were surveyed, including nut and savoury snacks, cereal, baked products, and confectionery. The results showed that 75 per cent were high in fat and 69 per cent were high in sugar, with calorie levels similar to those in a standard chocolate bar.
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According to the report, the gluten-free food market in Ireland was worth a whopping €66 million in 2017, which is good news for those with medical disorders, as it indicates that the quality and variety of foods available to them has grown exponentially. However, it does seem that gluten-free products are promoted as a way to 'eat clean', which, as this research shows, is actually not the case.
Introducing the research, Dr Catherine Conlon, Director of Human Health & Nutrition at Safefood said avoiding gluten is an absolute must for those with gluten-related disorders, but that it isn't necessary for everyone. “We would have a concern that some of these snack foods have an unhealthy nutritional profile for everyone, whether or not they have a gluten-related disorder," Dr Conlon said. "Snacking on foods such as fruit and vegetables, unsalted plain nuts, gluten-free rice cakes and cheese, are healthier options for us all.”
The report “Cutting out Gluten – the nutrient profile of gluten-free snack foods on the island of Ireland” is available to download at safefood.eu.