Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Opinions #1: Get Over the Gluten-Free, Already...

Looks like I’ll be resorting to memes again in order to rack up some posts in my race to the finish line…  There’s one going around Facebook right now that requires one to list ten controversial non-political opinions.  I can do that…I seem to have an opinion about everything...!  One post for each of the ten.  And here’s the first:   

This one comes as no surprise (to whom?  The invisible audience? Sigh…)  The current pop culture rage against gluten is B.U.L.L.S.H.I.T.

Here’s the thing about bread and baked goods in general (the chief source of gluten in the Western diet)—They’re carbs, folks.  They’re an essential part of the human diet.  Our bodies were designed to metabolize them and convert them to energy.  And there’s nothing wrong with consuming carbohydrates.  Just ask any marathon runner.

Unfortunately, humans typically have problems balancing nutrients in their diets.  For some, it’s because the essential food groups might not be readily available in an economically disadvantaged culture.  For others, like Americans, it’s because we choose to consume more of some kinds of foods than others—whether for the sake of convenience or self-indulgence.  We tend to eat too many carbs—particularly wheat-based carbs, like bread, pasta and baked goods—because we like them.  Too many carbohydrates in the diet become basically empty calories.  We eat too much, we gain weight, and acquire all the physical woes associated with being overweight.  But that is not the carbs’ fault…and gluten certainly isn’t to blame.  It’s our own fault. 

Americans are lazy…no doubt about that.  We can’t be bothered to pay attention to what we put in our bodies…unless someone tells us that some food substance is dangerous.  Then we go off the deep end to avoid that thing.  And pressure the entire dining public to jump on our bandwagon…so that we don’t have to live forever all by ourselves, I guess.  We’re pathologically unable to eat properly unless we can indulge in some over-the-top, pop-culture demonization of some food substance.  That dubious honor has been conferred upon many things over the years…  Cholesterol, fat, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar of any kind…all the things in which we tend to indulge because they’re cheap, easy to get, and taste good.  But none of these—including gluten—is going to kill you or make you sick…if you consume them in the proper proportions pursuant to a balanced diet.

Yes, I know there is a sub-set of the human population that cannot digest or tolerate gluten.  That’s because there’s something wrong with them—they lack the enzymes to properly metabolize gluten, so it makes them sick.  I sympathize with those folks, and would never tell them they’re full of crap.  It’s always been difficult for these folks to feel comfortable eating at restaurants where hidden ingredients might actually make them sick.  But, you know what?  They didn’t demand that the restaurant industry tie itself in knots to accommodate their issues.  They became informed consumers, and either ate at home or went to places where they knew they could safely eat.

But adherents to this new pop-culture tirade against gluten don’t want to change what they eat…they just want to make sure it doesn’t have gluten in it.  They want their pizza, and spaghetti, and cookies, and bread, but they want it gluten free.  And if they can’t get it, the industry is going to hear about it—loudly and rudely.  After all, the service industry is all about accommodation, isn’t it?  If you can’t accommodate MY (totally unreasonable) demands, you don’t deserve to be in business. 

That’s where you’ve lost me, folks.  You want to be gluten-free?  Knock yourself out.  It won’t kill you.  You might even lose a few pounds.  But you need to learn to walk the walk—get OUT of the habit of consuming those carb-heavy foods, like bread and pasta.  And do not, for god’s sake, try to force everyone else at gunpoint to walk that walk with you.   In the immortal words of Yukon Cornelius:  “You eat what you like, and I’ll eat what I like.”  And let’s leave each other to our own choices, shall we?     

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