Any wholesale food distributor in Chicago will agree that gluten free food is a money maker. Since 2000, the number of people following the gluten free lifestyle, and the number of food options available to them, has grown tremendously. Whether the diet is a fad or a true lifestyle change that will stick, food distributors and retail establishments are jumping on board to enjoy the monetary benefits of selling food free from gluten.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is the protein that is found in wheat and other grains like barley, triticale and rye. The protein is valuable in helping foods maintain their shape and stick together. However, for some people, the protein is not easily digested, and can even be toxic to their systems.
Reasons for Eating Gluten-Free
The gluten-free lifestyle originated because of a disease called celiac disease. Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease where eating gluten causes actual damage to the small intestine. It affects as many as one out of every 100 people around the world. For an individual with celiac disease, gluten triggers an immune system response that attacks the small intestine, damaging the villi and preventing the absorption of food.
Yet celiac disease patients are not the only ones who struggle with gluten. Some people find that even though they do not have celiac, eating gluten causes intense stomach discomfort. Avoiding gluten can help alleviate that discomfort.
Yet others avoid gluten because they believe a gluten-free lifestyle is healthier, or because they believe cutting gluten will help them lose weight or improve problems with the thyroid or other health conditions. Because of the number of alternative foods now available, cutting gluten is easier now than it has ever been. This may be part of the reason that the trend has grown.
Alternatives to Gluten
While avoiding wheat may seem like an impossibility, the reality is that a number of alternative food products have been made available in recent years. Flours made from corn, soy, potato, cassava, rice, sorghum, quinoa, millet, arrowroot, flax, yucca, nuts and gluten-free oats are all safe alternatives to wheat flour.
While some may be eating gluten free diets as a fad, others, like those who have celiac disease, must eat it for true medical reasons. Because of this fact, wholesale food distributors, manufacturers and retailers who invest in gluten free products will continue to have a market for those products.