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Event Mon Apr 14 2014
After attending the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo (GAFE) in Schaumburg this weekend, I finally get it. I finally understand why people enjoy being gluten-free. As I strolled through the vendor aisles -- toting my environmentally friendly bag -- a peculiar but delightful emotion coursed through my wheat-intolerant veins. It was a feeling of self-gratifying sanctimony, of clannish indignation -- and boy, did I love it! There is no sensation more pleasant than knowing (and letting others know) that whilst I cannot partake in the joyous wonder that is bread, I do have flax crackers and chocolate-coated quinoa chunks! Who needs hot dogs and Doritos when I can happily indulge in vegan soy sausages and tamari-glazed rice crackers?
Gluten free doesn't just taste good -- it makes my body feel good. Words like "virtuous," "non-GMO" and "vegan" instantly revitalize my spirit -- merely looking at a paleo, cruelty-free energy bars inspires me to run a marathon and donate to charity. Although various products did admittedly contain carrageenan, modified corn starch, and +30g of added sugar, I refused to believe these products were junk food. If the label tells me it's healthy and if I no longer bloat after eating pasta, then gluten-free is clearly the answer.
Gluten sensitivity affects an estimated 5-8% of all Americans, predominately white affluent women and vegan hipsters. Gluten-intolerance is a highly serious disorder, but with careful and proper dieting, afflicted individuals can live a normal, arthritis-free life. Furthermore, mommy-groups and various lifestyle magazines offer plenty of resources and support, especially for newly-diagnosed or self-diagnosed individuals.
Even if you're blessed with the remarkable ability to process gluten and couldn't care less about gluten-free products, you should still take notice of industry trends. The gluten-free category earned an estimated $10.5 billion in annual sales in 2013, with projections of $15 billion in 2016. Every company uses strategic and expensive marketing campaigns to sell its product, but a great company ensures longevity by inventing a reason to sell its product. Case in point, Viagra. And now gluten-free companies. (Simply genius!)
Of course, the GAFE Expo included all food allergies, not just gluten allergies (gluten sounds sexier than lactose or peanut intolerance). But as I mentioned before, having any food allergy -- as long as it's mild and you're functional without medication -- is a worthwhile investment for your body, your mental spirit, your purpose in life. So the next time you're reaching for those pita chips, consider roasted chickpeas or baked protein crackers. Food will never make you feel so special.