Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida/National News

Gluten-Free Doesn't Automatically Mean a Healthy Choice

TALLAHASSEE, FL - As more food choices labeled 'gluten-free' show up on store shelves across the state, some people are warning that it doesn't automatically mean it's a healthy choice.

Mary Waldner, founder of Mary's Gone Crackers, welcomed more options for those who have celiac disease like herself. But, she said the label can blur the line for consumers when it comes to nutrition, as many gluten-free foods are loaded with sugar and fat to improve their taste.

"I think so many gluten-free companies, they don't care what's in the food," said Waldner. "I see it as an opportunity to look at our food and see what's in it, and not replace it with gluten-free junk."

The gluten-free industry is now said to be worth more than $23 billion annually, with sales up more than 16 percent over the last year, according to Nielsen surveys.

Gluten-free is often characterized as a diet trend, but according to Waldner, it's here to stay, whether or not food choices are made because of a doctor's note. She added that because of the new gluten awareness, the public is learning that decades of eating processed foods come at a cost.

"Our guts are in bad shape," said Waldner. "We're eating such highly-refined foods. We've been doing damage to our digestive system, and I think wheat is a very hard thing to digest."

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is one of the world's most common genetic autoimmune disorders, affecting about 1 percent of the population.

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