Rudi’s gluten-free tortillas

Rudi’s gluten-free tortillas

In the latest episode of “Food marketing trumps facts”, sales of gluten-free products have reportedly grown 30%/year for the past 5 years.  Dr. Glenn Gaesser, a professor at ASU, bemoans the fact that people now believe gluten-free equals weight loss diet.  It’s easy to see why this happened.  People leap to conclusions about nutrition and health based on sound bite marketing messages.  If a product is “free of” something, that something must be bad.  Right?

Let’s review: the people who need to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, have a genetic condition called celiac disease.  They can’t break gluten down, and as a result their intestines and digestive system don’t work properly.  When they avoid gluten, the symptoms go away.  Estimates put the number of people in the US with celiac at 1.6 million, about 0.7% of the population.  That’s about 1 in every 140 people, so if you are acquainted with 140 people, you might know 1 person with celiac.

A recent survey of consumers showed that the vast majority of gluten-free purchases were based on the perception that gluten free is somehow “healthier”, or that it leads to weight loss.

No surprise, lots of food companies are jumping on the gluten free bandwagon to capitalize on this craze.  Rudi’s Bakery in Colorado sent me some samples of gluten-free tortillas.  Finding suitable gluten-free tortillas would be difficult for people with celiac, since gluten gives wheat tortillas their nice flavor and texture.  The only option would be all-corn tortilla shells, which don’t wrap as easily, and are generally limited to small sizes.

Rudi’s gluten-free tortillas come in a variety of flavors, and have a texture very similar to corn tortillas.  You can use them to make more conventional burritos or any type of wrap, and they hold together well.  The package recommends heating them through before using, which softens them up a bit.  Nutritionally, they’re slightly different from  traditional wheat tortillas of the same diameter:

  • fewer calories, because they’re much thinner (they weigh half as much)
  • more fiber
  • less protein

So for people who are avoiding wheat, whether or not they need to, Rudi’s gluten free tortillas offer some welcome options in food choices.

Meanwhile I’m waiting for the next fad diet inspired by marketing sound bites.  How about “broccoli-free!”  It sounds like a great satire for Saturday Night Live or Monty Python.

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