Joanne Palmer: Gluten free or sanity free?
October 23, 2012
Poor gluten. No one likes you anymore. It's getting hard to find a food product that doesn't have a gluten-free option. There is gluten-free bread, gluten-free beer and, worst of all, gluten-free Halloween candy.
Gluten is enjoying a prolonged 15 minutes of fame, and everyone loves to hate it. No one wants to eat gluten anymore. Restaurants offer gluten-free options on their menus. How much longer until resorts start offering "gluten-free vacation packages"? The airlines, ground transportation and lodging will offer nothing but gluten-free fare and fun. Marketers are working overtime to figure out how to get a piece of the gluten-free prize. I'm surprised the keyboard I am typing on isn't gluten free.
What exactly is gluten? It's a funny-sounding word — a hybrid between a gargle and a snore — but gluten is actually a protein composite. This protein, found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains, makes pizza dough stretchy, bread spongy and soup and sauces thick. If you have an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease, it is critically important to ban gluten from your diet. I am glad anyone suffering from this disease or a gluten sensitivity has so many options.
However, I am tired of worrying about what, when and how to eat. It's gotten to the point where I'm afraid to put anything in my mouth.
Grocery stores need to have an on-site medical staff because if you weren't a hypochondriac before you went to the store, you will be by the time you come out. Here are all the things I now can worry about when I go to the grocery store: Is it organic? Is it loaded with good fats, bad fats or hydrogenated fats? Is it fat free? Or gluten free? Or lactose free?
Going to the grocery store just isn't as much fun as it used to be. Take, for example, the thought process behind buying a week's worth of groceries. Let's start with cereal. There are hundreds of choices that fill the shelves and take up an alarming amount of space in one aisle. There are sugar flakes, frosted flakes, corn flakes, chocolate flakes, organic flakes, low-fat flakes, fat-free flakes and gluten-free flakes. While standing there, perhaps you remember you are out of milk to put on the cereal, and you have to not only jump through all the same mental hoops again but also worry if you are lactose intolerant. In the yogurt section, you can worry about your intestine and whether or not you should add probiotics to your diet. In the meat department, you can worry about getting either E. coli or pink slime and rush over to buy fish instead. That isn't any easier because you have to decide whether to buy farm raised or wild fish and then still worry about where it comes from. Once, I was about to buy some frozen fish until I realized it came all the way from China.
All of these mind-boggling choices and decisions can send your blood pressure skyrocketing. Oh, don't forget about the salt-free options.
Dazed, confused and mentally spent, you realize you have forgotten your reusable bags in the car, so now you can beat yourself up for destroying the environment.
It's too much. I'm planning to kick back on Halloween and eat Reese's Peanut Butter Cups until I'm full. I'll worry about the consequences Nov. 1.
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