Gluten-free diets are the new fad. Famous athletes and A-list Hollywood celebrities have made the diet popular among health-conscious circles.
However, many new initiates are usually shocked at the high prices of gluten-free products. Recent research revealed that gluten-free food costs about 83% more than gluten food. Why are these products so highly-priced?
Gluten-free food is primarily expensive because its cost of production is high. GFO certifications, sourcing raw materials such as quinoa and millet, and increased demand are also part of the reason why gluten-free products are so expensive.
So, what exactly is a gluten-free diet, and does it live up to the hype?
What is a Gluten-Free Diet?
Gluten is a protein. It is found in wheat and all wheat products. It’s also found in barley, rye, and triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye.
A gluten-free diet excludes all foods that contain gluten. Gluten-free diets are usually packed with plant-based meal plans such as vegetables and fruits.
Fish, poultry, meats, and dairy products are all gluten-free and are a big part of these diets.
Why is Gluten-Free Such a Big Deal?
Gluten-free is a necessary precaution for people with certain health problems such as celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder affecting the digestive system.
When people with this disorder eat foods with gluten, side effects may manifest as diarrhea, bloating, gas, or anemia.
Other health problems that can be alleviated or minimized by a gluten-free diet include wheat allergy, gluten sensitivity, and gluten ataxia.
Another reason why gluten-free diets are so popular is that it has been marketed as an alternative way to lose and maintain weight, increase energy and improve overall health.
Health experts say that more research needs to be done into these claims.
However, with famous athletes and superstars such as Elisabeth Hasselbeck strictly following the diet, its popularity keeps on skyrocketing.
Average Weekly Cost of a Gluten-Free Diet
Weekly costs of gluten-free meals are higher than normal meals. The cost will also depend greatly on family sizes, age, etc. For instance, a family of four would spend about $130 on a gluten-free diet.
Is Eating Gluten-Free Expensive?
Following a gluten-free diet is costly. A quick trip to your local store will reveal the stark difference between gluten-free and regular food prices.
As a result, maintaining a gluten-free diet can be challenging. It is also time-consuming to have to read each label to ensure that the food is gluten-free and certified or at least from a reputable producer.
Why are Gluten-Free Foods More Expensive?
1. High Gluten-Free Certification Costs
To be able to sell gluten-free foods, businesses need certification from the GFCO. This certification involves training staff and inspection of processing facilities and can cost anywhere from $500 – $5,000 annually. As a recurring cost, business owners pass part of this cost on to consumers.
2. High Production Cost
Gluten is the protein that helps dough retain its structure. In the absence of gluten, naturally derived gum is used.
This technique requires extra training or manpower, extra care, and attention to be paid to food production, and naturally, this increases labor costs and production time.
It is the end consumer who ends up shouldering the added costs.
3. Short Shelf-Life
Gluten-free foods have a shorter life span. Since gluten-free products have a highly refined starch content, they tend to go stale quicker than those containing gluten.
Additionally, moisture doesn’t bind as well in gluten-free products. This leads to hard, crusty products.
A short shelf-life in any product leads to high prices because the item is highly perishable. The sellers pass off most of the risks to the buyers by keeping the prices high.
4. Cost of Avoiding Cross-Contamination
It may be a lot easier to avoid cross-contamination when preparing a gluten-free home-cooked meal. However, this may prove quite difficult in a commercial setting.
Specially designated areas have to be built or closed off. Additional staff has to be assigned to these areas.
Separate preparation equipment has to be bought and separated from the rest of the establishments. Obviously, this costs more, and it will be reflected in the final retail price.
5. Expensive Raw Materials.
Wheat is subsidized and costs much less compared to other sources of carbohydrates. Gluten-free sources like sorghum, brown rice, tapioca, amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat costs significantly more. This raises the final price of gluten-free products.
6. High Demand
Gluten-free foods have soared in popularity. More people, especially women, are taking up the gluten-free diet. This has driven up demand.
Producing gluten-free food is time-consuming. This has created a mismatch between the available supply in the market and the prevailing demand. As a result, prices have soared.
Example of a Gluten-Free Diet
The best way to follow a gluten-free diet is to know which foods to exclude from your diet. These include the major source of gluten; wheat.
Steer clear of wheat-based foods such as wheat bran, wheat flour, spelt, durum, kamut, and semolina. Other sources are barley, rye, triticale, malt, and brewer’s yeast.
Here is a great beginner-friendly two-week gluten-free diet plan to get you started.
Is a Gluten-Free Diet Worth It?
For people living with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is a daily reality. It is absolutely worth not getting sick.
For those trying to lose weight or improve their general well-being, the diet almost always works. Health experts who do not support claims that this diet helps with weight loss have argued that it is not the diet that helps in weight loss.
Rather, it is the conscious effort and change in eating behaviors by the people following the diet. Regardless, a gluten-free diet can help alleviate digestive discomfort, shed extra weight, and boost energy.
Where to Buy Cheap Gluten-Free Food Online
If you love take-out, you are in luck. There are a number of great options for gluten-free meals. Modify Health offers gluten-free deliveries throughout the country.
Apart from the convenient menu and food delivery, the company also offers personalized advice from their gastrointestinal health practitioner.