Nowadays you can find a gluten-free or sugar-free product in every grocery store. From “free” pops, yogurts, and candies to breads, chips, and cookies. Gluten-free and Sugar-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. The majority of the time these substances use replacements for the real deal. Replacing gluten which by definition is responsible for the elastic texture of the dough, with gums, which do not occur naturally. Sugar-free, on the other hand, replaces cane sugar (which is a plant) with chemically created and compounded sugars. Now there are some healthy gluten and sugar replacements, but more often than not the cheaper, unhealthier alternatives are used in our foods today.
Two of the major gums we’ll be talking about are Guar gum and Xanthan gum These products are all used as gluten replacements. In foods, guar gum is used as a binding and thickening agent, but in manufacturing, it is used as a thickening agent in lotions and creams. Cons of Guar gum include pulmonary embolism, can lead to constipation, and an allergen to people with soy allergies or high exposure. Xanthan gum is a bacteria that is responsible for the black rot that is found on cauliflower, broccoli, and lettuce (the black stuff). Xanthan is used as a stabilizing agent in both food and manufacturing uses include industrial uses, lotions, and cosmetics. There are healthier alternatives to these two gums such as chia seeds, flax seeds, and agar agar if you need to avoid gluten.
Two commonly used sugar replacements, such as Aspartame and Sucralose post their effects to your health as well. Aspartame is the most commonly found sugar alternative. Most pops such as Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi contain aspartame as well as sugar-free candies. A less serious side effect of Aspartame is that it’s considered a laxative, but there’s more than meets the eye. According to a study done by the Department of Anatomy at the University of Pretoria proves that Aspartame can cause headaches, insomnia, depression, and seizures. Sucralose (more commonly known as Splenda), is created by adding chlorine to regular sugar. According to Columbia University, sucralose, as well as other artificial sweeteners, can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. Splenda has also been known to alter gut flora and lead to lower numbers of healthy bacteria in your gut.
So, as you can see these “free” ingredients are not necessarily the healthiest options, the next time you’re shopping look for healthier alternatives to these “healthy options.” Because something says gluten-free or sugar-free, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better for you than the original product. In some scenarios such as diabetes and celiac disease, there are specific alternatives that need to be done. So the next time you want to get something that is gluten-free or sugar-free, read the food labels and be in the know!