Many people believe that ‘free from’ foods, such as gluten-free muffins and lactose-free yoghurt, are exceptionally healthy. But looks can be deceiving. “The supermarket shelves are now full of expensive, special foods that address certain needs. But food intolerances have not increased in recent years”, says Jan Frank from the University of Hohenheim.
Only about two to five per cent of people in Germany have a confirmed allergy to certain foods or one of the ingredients. “It takes a differentiated approach to diagnose food intolerances and treat them in a way that optimises health”, says ecotrophologist Claudia Laupert-Deick from Bonn.
Essential nutrients often missing
Not only are ‘free from’ products of no benefit to people without a confirmed allergy or intolerance – they can actually be detrimental. For example, reducing gluten, the sticky protein found in certain grains, often leads to a decrease in the overall amount of whole grains in the diet at the same time.
But foods like whole grains and dairy products are healthy, and very few Germans are unable to tolerate them.
Sometimes people cannot tolerate certain foods, even though they have no allergy or intolerance. As a nutritionist, Frank advises: “If you have the feeling that you don’t tolerate certain foods very well, you should reduce them by all means. But in order to ensure a balanced and varied diet, you shouldn’t eliminate them completely.” This compromise will allow you to safely determine which foods agree with you.
Elsner: Gefährlicher Modetrend: „Frei von“-Lebensmittel nur für wenige Menschen empfehlenswert. Pressemitteilung der Universität Hohenheim vom 21.10.2019. (“Dangerous trend: ‘free-from’ foods recommended only for a small group of people”). University of Hohenheim press release, 21 Oct 2019 (in German)