Why Are Most High Processed Foods Not Gluten-Free?

by Mariana Lessmann

How many times have you tried starting a diet to lose weight and you stay the same for weeks and even gain more pounds? How many times have you started eating what you believe is a healthy diet, and nothing, your body simply doesn’t get better. How many times have you decided to join a gluten-free diet because you are celiac and/or have gluten intolerance, and the result is the same as before: you still get sick after eating. If you see no improvements when you start a diet of any kind, if you are still feeling sick every time you eat any of your meals, obviously there is something wrong. Your body is sending you a signal, it is trying to communicate with you to tell you that there is something not functioning right. One of the most common mistakes we make when we eat is incorporating into our diet high processed food. We all love eating fast food, right? We can’t wait until the weekend to have our well-deserved cheat meal. We look forward to eating pizza, cookies, cakes, french fries, or anything that comes with a lot of flavors! But we are not being rational at all, we are just hungry and looking to eat something that is going to satisfy us for 2 seconds, but then what? What happens to you every time you go to a fast food restaurant and order a juicy cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, and french fries? What happens to your stomach after you eat a greasy pepperoni pizza and a sweet chocolate ice cream? You don’t feel good at all, don’t you? You feel happy the moment you are eating but later your stomach starts bothering you and you are no longer excited about the idea of coming back to that fast food restaurant. When we have a craving we don’t realize that whatever we are planning ingesting can bring repercussions to our health. Good or bad, the food we eat has an impact on us. How many times do we say YES to junk food, and how many times do we say NO to it? And how many times do we say NO to healthy food, and how many times do we say YES to it? If you are celiac you may experience even more uncomfortable symptoms after eating, especially after ingesting high processed food. Besides the fact that they tend to be more exposed to cross-contamination, and that they are more likely to contain gluten, high processed food is a major contributor to obesity, illnesses, and serious threats to our health. Always keep in mind that highly processed foods are BAD and UNNECESSARY for our health.  

1. What Are Processed Foods?

Processed foods refer to any food that has been modified and goes through a series of mechanical and/or chemical operations prior to being eaten.  

When foods are processed they go through different processes such as washing, chopping, pasteurizing, freezing, fermenting and/or packaging, and in most cases, a lot of ingredients are added to preserve them or to extend their shelf life.  

Most of those ingredients added are artificial and unnatural.  

When any food goes through this series of mechanical and chemical operations, the food changes. It’s modified and no longer natural.  

We commonly find processed foods in boxes, bags, or packages, and their ingredients list is longer than your credit card bill. They go through heat treatments, fermentation, smoking, drying, curing, and other processes that make them no longer “real” food.  

The most common processes that food go through before they are ready to be eaten are the following: 

  • Canning: In this step food is heated to high temperatures, then packaged, and stored in airtight cans. 
  • Fermentation: This is the process of converting carbohydrates and breaking down sugars to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms, bacteria or yeasts. This method is used in the production of alcoholic beverages like wine and beer. 
  • Freezing: Food temperatures are reduced to below 0 degrees to decrease the activity of harmful bacterias and to preserve fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and legumes. 
  • Modified Atmosphere Packaging: This is a blend of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen gases that modify the composition of the internal atmosphere of a package to make the food stay fresh for as long as possible. 
  • Pasteurization: Food is heated and then cooled down to kill bacterias and microorganisms. This often happens with dairy products, canned foods, juices, and alcoholic beverages. 
  • Smoking: Food is exposed to heat, chemical treatment, and smoke to help preserve meat, sausages, cheese and fish. 
  • Additives: Food additives are added to ensure food safety, to maintain their shelf life, and to preserve the freshness, taste, appearance, and texture. 

Imagine seeing one food product going through all these processes and then eating it? I bet you will have second thoughts about it now that you know everything that food goes through before it is placed on the shelf of the supermarket.  

2. What Makes High Processed Foods Unhealthy?

If you are looking to eat healthily, certainly, high processed food is not the best option for you. Obviously not all processed foods are unhealthy, in fact, most foods we eat are processed in some way and that makes them safer. For example, milk needs to be pasteurized in order to harmful bacterias being removed. Without that process, drinking milk wouldn’t be safe.  

For celiacs eating processed foods represent a bigger threat to their health because of the risk of cross-contamination in any of those steps is very high.  

Most manufactures process the most common food allergens like peanut, eggs, and wheat. This means that your food can easily be in contact with gluten. Too many unnecessary exposures of food with gluten!  

Not only you can find wheat in high processed foods, ingredients like sugar, salt, and fat are commonly added to make them have more flavor and visually more appealing to the consumer.  

Most processed foods are higher in calories due to the amounts of sugars and fat added, and most of them contain such a long list of ingredients that they can easily contain hidden forms of gluten.  

They are also low in nutrients and fiber, so what are we really eating when we eat highly processed food? 

All these things contribute to food no longer being safe to treat your celiac disease.  

Eating these products can lead people to eat more than the recommended amounts of sugar, salt, and fat we need, and can lead celiacs to ingest food products that contain gluten and/or its hidden forms.

Many gluten-free companies create poor food quality options for celiacs adding pesticides, preservatives, and additives to substitute the properties that gluten adds to food.  

Watch out for ingredients like fructose corn syrup because that’s a “fancy” word for sugar. When the product you are buying states on its label “no sugar added, just high fructose syrup” that is almost the same.  

Sometimes we want to eat what we see just because it looks tasty, but be careful because a food product being so visually attractive to you can mean that is has been modified in multiple ways in order to look that way.  

Food companies want to sell more and more, and they also want to make consumers buy as much as possible their junk food without being concerned about the risks processed food can bring to their health.  

So if you want to have a healthy eating habit, try to not incorporate high processed foods into your gluten-free lifestyle.  

3. What Foods Are Typically High Processed?

Always read carefully the labels of any product you are considering buying, this way you will know the list of ingredients that it contains. Especially if you are celiac, watch out for hidden forms of gluten! The fewer ingredients and the simpler, the better! Try to avoid products that have a long list of ingredients because they are more likely to contain gluten and/or preservatives that may bother your stomach. Not all processed foods are unhealthy, it’s a matter of buying the safest options. Some of the most highly processed foods are actually advertised as healthy options for your meals, so always check the labels. These are the foods that are typically high processed and that you should avoid and exclude from your diet: 

  • Low-fat Foods: Crackers, cookies, pastries, cakes, and any snacks that say “low fat” are loaded with calories, sugars, stabilizers, gums, and salt to make up for flavor and texture. You would think they are healthier options just because they say “low-fat” but they are actually less healthy, they basically have no nutrients and fibers but refined sugars and trans fats. They process these food products to get the fat out, but after being processed, they end up being unsafe options to include into our diets. 
  • Cereals: Whether they are flaked, puffed or shredded, mostly all breakfast cereals are highly processed. They are advertised as healthy alternatives for your breakfasts but the truth is that they are loaded with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. 
  • Condiments: Most people love cooking using many condiments to enhance the flavor of food, but what we ignore is the fact that they are filled with sodium, preservatives, sugar, gums, artificial colors, stabilizers, and artificial flavors.  
  • Fast Food: Cheap and tasty. Those are the only “attributes” of fast food, the rest are only negative qualities. They are made for overconsumption and have a lot of added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, high in trans fats, artificial ingredients, high in refined or simple carbohydrates, chemicals, preservatives, flavors, colorants, and texturants. Fast food is also low in nutrients and fiber.
  • Refined Grains: When grains are refined, the most nutritional part of the grain is removed, so it’s better to rely on whole grains than on the ones that are processed. 
  • Refined Oils: These are one of the worst options for cooking because these highly processed oils are cleaned with chemicals and are genetically modified. The safest option for cooking is to use traditional fats like butter and olive, avocado, and coconut oils. 
  • Imitation foods: Any fake food that pretends to be something it’s not like margarine, cheese butter, and lemonade powder. These are fake versions of real food.  

4. What Processed Foods Are Gluten-Free?

Some processed foods are still safe for celiacs and people in general. Just go after the ones that have fewer ingredients, and of course double check the label to make sure they don’t contain wheat, rye or barley.  

The followings are typically gluten-free processed food and drinks that have gone through minimally processing methods: 

  • Milk  
  • Fruit Juices  
  • Frozen Fruits 
  • Frozen Vegetables 
  • Cereal 
  • Yogurt 
  • Peanut Butter 
  • Plain Corn Tortilla Chips 
  • Plain Potato Chips 
  • Popcorn 
  • Nuts 
  • Sugar 
  • Cooking Oil 
  • Coffee  

5. What Are The Risks To Our Health?  

The risks of eating high processed foods are really negative when it comes to your health. Especially if you are celiac, besides consuming all types of unhealthy additives, you take the risk of ingesting gluten. Highly processed food that states on their labels a long list of ingredients are more likely to contain those undesirable proteins that hurt celiacs’ stomachs: gluten. Unfortunately, the chances of getting cross-contamination is higher because most of those processed food products are exposed to wheat, rye, and barley (and other food allergens like peanut, soy and eggs) in the manufacturers where they are processed. Excess amounts of fructose have been linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high triglycerides, cholesterol, increasing fat accumulation in the liver and abdominal cavity, and many other health problems. Companies substitute the gluten present in food with options that are not healthy at all like gums and fructose syrups in order to achieve a similar consistency and appearance of gluten-based food. But instead of using healthy ingredients and creating safe food products for celiacs, they focus on adding sugars, pesticides, and other unhealthy fillers. Many gluten-free food products that come in packages and are frozen, have minimal nutritional value and don’t add anything positive to our diets. Obviously, most foods are processed in some way, but there is a difference between a mechanical process (like for pasteurizing milk) and chemical processing where all manufacturers add to food are artificial substances. Peanut butter goes for example through a small processing method where they turn whole peanuts into butter, but no artificial flavors, chemicals or additives are added. They just put it straight into the jar where you will buy it at the supermarket. So keep in mind that processed gluten-free foods, despite the gluten has been removed, are not as safe as naturally gluten-free food which are naturally free from gluten and no need to go through chemical processes.  

by Mariana Lessmann


We are Mariana Lessmann and Matt Ackerson.

Mariana graduated from Communications & Journalism in Caracas, Venezuela, and has over 10 years of experience as a writer. She has worked on Digital Marketing, and for over 10 prestigious Cable Television Channels aired in Latin America. Matt graduated from Cornell University in New York. He started his own company in 2010, and has been running it by himself since then. Matt is an expert in Marketing, Sales, and creating 6-Figure Funnels for online businesses.

Over the past year we decided to start a company together and created "Vookies", that later expanded and became "Be Breader". We have been helping celiacs around the world to optimize and improve their health by incorporating safe and delicious meals into their daily menus.


Let's start eating delicious and safe!

Your health can change today.