The Gluten-Free Fallacy

Just because grain-based processed foods don’t contain wheat doesn’t mean they are good for you — and they may be even worse.

Many people have the misconception that gluten-free products are a healthier choice than those made from wheat. This is another example of a bad combination of science, media and marketing.

As reported recently in The New York Times, a study published in the journal Epidemiology found that people on a gluten-free diet had levels of arsenic twice as high as the control group, and also elevated levels of mercury. It is believed this is due to many gluten-free products being made from rice, which tends to be high in these toxic elements.

Toxins aside, grain-based gluten-free products have never been a healthier choice. Most are highly processed, are higher in total carbs, and have higher glycemic indexes than comparable wheat products. Many contain added sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.

In fact, about 75 percent of all packaged foods contain added sugar, and even those without it are high-glycemic (or turn to sugar quickly after eating).

Of course, most wheat products remain unhealthy as well for a variety of similar and different reasons. Obviously, wheat and some other cereal grains differ from rice in that they contain gluten, a protein which is difficult for many to digest and which can cause autoimmune, allergic and other issues as well. For those who have celiac disease it is imperative they not eat wheat or wheat products.

It should also be noted that in addition to toxic metals and gluten, grains also contain significant amounts of polyunsaturated fats. When the grain kernel is processed, these fats begin to oxidize immediately and quickly, contributing both to unhealthy fat imbalances in the body (too much omega-6) and also to free-radical oxidative stress.

The MAF Method focuses on eliminating processed and junk foods, and finding your own level of carbohydrate tolerance. Most grain products tend to be a high concentration of carbs. Eating carbs like this causes the body to produce more insulin, which in turns promotes fat storage and sugar-burning at the expenses of fat-burning. That’s why grain foods are a significant contributor to the overfat pandemic.

If you wish to cut grains from your diet, consider that breads, cakes, pancakes and even desserts can be made using healthier alternatives like ground almonds and coconut flour.

Gluten-free or not, grain-based foods should not make up any large portion of most people’s diet, if any at all. It doesn’t matter really what grains these products are made from. If you do choose to eat grain foods, it’s best to use those that are least processed.


  • Dan says:

    I agree that gluten free substitute isn’t the answer but using almond flour for baking, would cause the omega 6 acids it contains to oxidize as well (by the oven heat). Correct me if I’m wrong. Frankly, I am a little surprised by the amount of Paleo websites that almost entirely focus on providing breads and cake recipes.

  • Todd says:

    What are your thoughts on sprouted grains, such as Ezekiel bread?

    • They have generally a lower glycemic load than regular breads, but still more than whole grains. We don’t recommend them for the simple reason that they push us towards a higher sugar intake than necessary in a environment that is already so nutritionally hostile.

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