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Missionary work offers unusual opportunities

Sometimes I feel like a missionary.

Well, not a religious one; I probably would not pass the piety test to qualify for that role. I do feel compelled from time to time, however, to preach to folks who simply don’t understand, or have been led down the wrong path, so to speak, about healthy food choices. Okay, I’m not a diet expert either as close scrutiny of my personal food choices will prove, but I can dispel a few erroneous assumptions people make about certain foods.

The latest soapbox I climbed on was at the Denton Market last Saturday. My son and I shop there fairly regularly. l like to pick up fresh produce from local farms; Nick likes to collect baked goods—he’s particularly fond of cake pops, dinner rolls and chocolate cookies. One of his regular stops is a booth that sells gluten-free breads, cakes and cookies. He’s not gluten intolerant or particularly interested in a gluten-free diet. This particular booth simply offers a few items he finds tasty. I find nothing wrong with that.

The young woman at the booth who also does the baking tried to interest me in some gluten-free goodies. “No thanks,” I said. “I kinda like my gluten.” She seemed a bit taken aback, as if I had sprouted an extra head.

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I explained that I don’t suffer from celiac disease and thus had no reason to maintain a gluten-free diet. And that’s where it got interesting. She claimed that a lot of people who do not have celiac disease also suffer from gluten intolerance. I will not argue that fact with her either, since I am neither nutritionist nor doctor, but neither is she. Most of this information comes anecdotally from other non-experts. People have reactions to many different things. Poison ivy makes me break out and itch; I know some who seem immune to it. If something irritates you, stay away from it, but if you’re not certain what causes the problem, see a doctor.

Then she said she is concerned that genetically engineered wheat has caused an upsurge in gluten intolerance and more celiac disease. That’s when the soap box hit the dirt and I stepped up on it to explain that wheat—currently—is not genetically modified and even if it were no studies exist to link GE foods to any kind of illness. I mentioned 20 years of studies with no link to any illness. She seemed less skeptical than surprised. I offered my limited credentials, an editor who has observed and written about genetically engineered crops for all of those 20 years, plus a few more.

To her credit, she was polite, and apparently interested in at least thinking about another point of view. I suggested that much of the gluten-free data is simply a marketing ploy to help sell products into a niche market. She admitted that to be the reason she offers things such as gluten-free pumpkin bread—the sample she offered did taste good. She has found a marketing opportunity and, I think, does well on market days. Good for her.  But I’m pretty certain that most of her customers would do just as well with baked goods made from wheat.

We had a pleasant conversation. I also mentioned that the whole organic-only movement was also a marketing ploy. She was less receptive to that notion, so I retrieved my soap box, dusted it off and headed back to the truck. End of sermon. Amen.



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