You may think free-from foods are healthier and a better choice to opt for when watching your weight, however, new research has shown that people are paying double the price for free-from products purely because they believe it’s healthier, but where’s the truth in this?
Expert nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed says free-from foods, that are made for people with food allergies are not necessarily healthier. Results from the study Looking Behind the Label reveals that despite free-from foods being created for people with specific reasons such as intolerances, over 40% of people buy these products solely for health benefits.
The study also found that 1 in 3 people say that they, or someone in their household, avoid certain foods as part of their everyday diet.
Which, makes it no surprise that the free-from industry is booming regardless of products averagely costing double the price of the normal versions. Free-from foods now have an estimated worth of over £800 million and in 2017 sales grew by more than 40%.
However, nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed who took part in the study revealed “It’s important to realise free-from products are designed for people who are avoiding certain ingredients for specific reasons, such as allergies, intolerances, cultural, or environmental reasons. They are not designed to be ‘health foods’ and therefore won’t necessarily make us lose weight or feel healthier.”
The Behind the Label study, run by Wren Kitchens, analysed foods in the free-from range, specifically looking at the gluten, dairy and wheat in the food against the regular supermarket products to establish what the health benefits really were in comparison.
In the honey cornflakes the gluten-free range worryingly contained nearly double the amount of salt per serving and consisted of more sugar than the regular brand.
The seeded bread was pretty similar in nutritional information, but the most obvious contrast was the difference in protein. Strikingly, the free-from loaf is nearly three times the price!!
Of all the foods tested, apart from sausages none of the free-from foods that were looked at appeared to be substantially healthier than their counterparts. Although they were certainly much more expensive.
Be sure to check the labels on the back of packaging so you’re not paying a premium for a potentially less nutritious option.
What is free-from?
Free-from is a group of food products which do not contain specific ingredients, often ones commonly known to cause a reaction in people with allergies and intolerances. This could be ‘gluten-free’ or ‘dairy-free’. But as advised by nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed “Gluten-free certainly doesn't mean 'healthy' and, unless you're coeliac or have specifically been told by a healthcare professional to avoid gluten, there really isn't a need to do so.”
Free-from foods can provide some health benefits, especially for people who are purchasing for food allergies, but it doesn’t instantly make it the healthier option. It’s important to check the labels before assuming.
By Hayley Blow
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