We’ve all met that person. The ridiculously skinny won’t touch gluten with a ten foot pole and is never seen without a kale smoothie in their hand, person. And while their sermons on how many years that juicy burger is going to carve off of your life span can get annoying, they are trying to do something that 97 percent of Americans fail at: living healthy.
A healthy lifestyle is typically considered to be made up of four parts: controlling one’s weight, regular physical activity, not smoking and, of course, having a healthy diet.
A study done by Ann P. Rafferty of the Michigan Department of Community Healthy and Mathew Reeves of Michigan State University concluded that, based on the above criteria, only three percent of Americans live a healthy lifestyle.
So while some people might go overboard with their grass filled smoothies, at least they’re trying.
Still, we have to be careful companies don’t end up making obscene profits by exploiting common health misconceptions. While it may be better in the long run for you to spend ten dollars on a home cooked meal rather than five dollars on that half a pound burger (of which three pounds is probably grease), some health fads have gone a step too far.
Gluten. Ten years ago no one knew this existed. Now a multibillion-dollar business has arisen that creates gluten-free products. Spend extra dollars on gluten-free bread and gluten-free pasta or you will die a slow and painful death! Right?
Of course not. Though many food companies would love it if you thought so.
Approximately one percent of the population is unable to digest gluten. One percent. If you aren’t that one percent, then you are wasting your time and your dollars on a food industry that has essentially invented itself.
Plus, if you peek at the nutritional label on your gluten free products, there is a high chance you will find that your gluten free food has less fiber, more sugar and fewer vitamins.
Gluten free diets are also becoming widely popular, but may be less effective due to the booming industry of gluten-free desserts and snacks that have sprung into existence.
The director of nutritional policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that “ten years ago a gluten-free diet would have helped you lose weight because you’d have cut out a lot of products like muffins and bread. The gluten-free fad has actually undermined people’s health because now there are gluten-free varieties of all that junk food. Whether your doughnut is gluten-free or not, it’s still a doughnut.”
Other abundant health buzzwords include “low carb,” “organic,” “hormone free,” “non-GMO,” “low fat,” all-natural,” “dairy-free” and more. While not dishonest, these labels can be misleading.
For example, “real cane sugar” has appeared as a label on many products, despite the fact that cane sugar has the same negative health effects as high-fructose corn syrup. Food companies flaunt this meaningless fact, as products labeled as being free of high-fructose corn syrup have seen their sales increase nearly fifty percent over the last four years.
Also, some products that never contained gluten now have a gluten-free label plastered on them in an effort to increase sales. These ‘healthier’ options often see their prices doubled for no apparent reason.
Junior economics major Denton Lewis said, “I think that it’s okay to be health conscious, but at the same time to claim that you have an allergy to gluten when you have no idea is kind of far…Otherwise, if you want to eat kale because you want to be healthy, go for it!”
Senior biochemistry and mathematics major Moujtaba Kasmani took a harsher stance. “I believe these people have very little knowledge about the fundamentals of biology and biochemistry. They should probably take a class about it before they say anything else.”
The bottom line is, know what you’re talking about. Do a little research into the food you’re eating before you start raving about how it has changed your world.