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Just Because It’s Gluten-Free Doesn’t Mean It’s Good

by Cheryl Forberg, RD on October 8, 2012

While writing my next book, Cooking with Quinoa for Dummies, I worked extensively with quinoa flour. Many people who need to be on gluten-free diets because of health reasons might be familiar with quinoa and quinoa flour, since quinoa is a gluten-free superfood. And swapping regular white flour for a wheat-free flour like those made from quinoa is, in general, one of the biggest and most important diet swaps you can make. If you stop and think about it, white wheat flour is used in so many of our favorite things: Bread, cookies, cakes, pies, muffin, pizza, bagels, the list goes on and on. If you are one of those who HAS to go gluten free for medical reasons, this swap could be the solution to something that has probably been your biggest conundrum, and it’s a good idea for all of us to cut out processed white flour. But this doesn’t mean that everything labeled “gluten-free” is good for you.

Is “gluten-free” in danger of becoming just the latest healthy eating buzzword?

Yes, there are PLENTY of gluten-free products on the market — cakes, pies, cookies, flours and baking mixes — but buyer beware: Gluten free does not equal healthy. Many, if not most, of these products are not all that healthy, or not healthy at all. Yes, they may have left out the highly refined gluten-filled white wheat flour, but that doesn’t mean their replacements are healthier. Many of them contain white rice flour, starches, gums and other highly processed ingredients. It’s important to understand that the words “gluten-free” on the package do not mean the product inside is necessarily healthy. If the goal was to have a gluten free stamp on the box, they succeeded but many of these items are far — very far from healthy — so read the ingredient and nutrition labels!

When you swap quinoa flour for ordinary flour, you are not only getting something that’s gluten free but something that is downright nutritious.