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The Truth Behind Terms Like Gluten Free, GMO Free and Grass Fed

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The Truth Behind Terms Like Gluten Free, GMO Free and Grass Fed

Now, more than ever, consumers are conscious of what they are putting in their grocery carts. The demand for nutrition information is at an all-time high, which is outstanding, but the way consumers are receiving this information can be misleading and result in confusion. Diet trends are making way to the marketplace, including “gluten-free”, “GMO-free” and “grass-fed meat.” So are these specific types of food really necessary for a healthy lifestyle?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. People with celiac disease cannot digest this protein, which causes damage to their intestines. The only treatment for celiac patients is to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet. Experts estimate that only 1% of Americans have celiac disease, but what about the other 99% of Americans? Whole grain foods that contain gluten have nutritional benefits that can prevent certain health conditions such as heart disease, type II diabetes and some forms of cancer. Going gluten-free could limit these healthy nutrients, so it is not really necessary for people who don’t have celiac disease. Just make sure that the products you are consuming are mostly wholegrain.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are used to improve crop production with the use of biotechnology. Agriculturalists are able to modify a plant’s genes to become resistant to plant diseases and also to tolerate herbicides. This process has been criticized for possible health and environmental drawbacks. Truth is that these products undergo an extensive safety assessment before human consumption. According to the World Health Organization, there have been no adverse effects on human health. However, the long-term effects have not been studied to support any conclusive statements. GMO-free products may or may not be better for your health, but it is evident that buying them will increase your grocery bill. Currently, a GMO-free certification raises prices by an average of 34 percent. So if the typical family were to purchase only non-GMO food, their food budget would increase by approximately $2,800 per year. Depending on your paycheck, you might want to reconsider the need for GMO-free products for you and your family.

Grass-Fed Meat
Growing consumer interest in grass-fed beef products has raised a lot of questions regarding the nutritional differences between grass-fed and grain-fed cattle. Red meat, regardless of the feeding regimen, is nutrient dense and is a good source of essential amino acids, vitamins A, B6, B12, D, E and minerals, including iron, zinc and selenium. The health claims of grass-fed beef are that it’s lower in saturated fat and also higher in omega-3 fatty acids. While studies have confirmed that grass-fed beef is significantly higher in omega-3, it would be a stretch to say they provide a “good” source. Grass-fed beef has only 20 mg of omega-3 (per 100 g) as compared to foods like salmon that has 3,000 mg (per 100 g). Also, studies have shown that grass-fed and grain-fed beef have comparable fats, which indicates one is not better than the other. Overall, it may come down to palatability and price, since the two varieties differ in taste and grass-fed products tend to be more expensive than grain-fed products.

In general, there is not one single diet that fits everyone. As new research develops, nutrition recommendations will continue to change. It is important to be aware and assess the food you and your family are consuming and know the facts before spending the extra cash or falling for misinformation.

To meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Cooper Clinic, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Department.