Is Gluten-Free the New Black?

Category : FABFOOD

May 19, 2011
Meet the latest dietary bad boy: gluten.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It causes some people serious health problems. But those people don’t seem to be the only ones buying the gluten-free beer and brownies suddenly for sale everywhere.


• Marketers estimate that 15% to 25% of consumers want gluten-free foods — though doctors estimate just 1% have celiac disease, the best-defined and most severe form of gluten intolerance, says Cynthia Kupper, executive director of the non-profit Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (

• When Oprah Winfrey undertook a “21-day cleanse” this summer, she eliminated meat, dairy, sugar, caffeine — and gluten.

• Gluten-free diets are catching on at colleges, says Dee Sandquist, a registered dietitian in Vancouver, Wash., and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

“There is a fad aspect,” says Kupper, who also is a registered dietitian. (Both Kupper and Sandquist have celiac disease.)

What can possibly be behind a fad that has college kids giving up pizza and bagels?

One answer is that true gluten intolerance, once thought rare, is getting overdue attention. In 2003, just 40,000 Americans had been diagnosed with celiac disease; today, it’s 110,000 — and, if everyone with the disease were diagnosed, it would be 3 million, says Alessio Fasano, medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore.

Fasano and other researchers also believe that some people who don’t have celiac disease — an immune disorder detected through a blood test and intestinal biopsy — do, nonetheless, have some gluten intolerance or sensitivity, causing symptoms ranging from bloating to rashes.

Whether or not you are allergic to gluten, gluten intolerant or just following the next fad you will LOVE Erin McKenna’s gluten-free “to-die” for treats.  And if you can’t get to one of three BabyCakes locations, don’t FRET!

Now, with her new cookbook, BabyCakes Covers the Classics, everyone can enjoy holistic, delicious desserts–none of the 40-plus recipes in the book contain gluten, dairy or refined sugar.

While lots of vegan and gluten-free cookbooks contain obscure ingredients, McKenna’s recipes are full of easy substitutions–agave nectar for sugar; bananas for eggs–that make healthy baking, well, a piece of cake.

This book may cater to people with food sensitivities, but it’s perfect for anyone who wants to make a sweet treat without the bad-for-you ingredients.  McKenna’s dairy-free sweets are so decadent, even people without food sensitivities are devout customers: Culinary guru Mark Bittman says the BabyCakes doughnuts are the best he’s had in 20 years.

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