How many times in the past year have you heard a friend or family member announce that he or she is trying out some new fad diet or cutting out a major food group? More often than not, these people say they want to live more healthy or sustainable lives, or maintain that not eating dairy, wheat, sugar, lactose or whatever substance they may have chosen, simply makes them feel better. And who’s to argue with that?
In Sweden, like many other countries, the gluten-free trend shows no sign of abating. In 2017 alone, Swedes purchased more than EUR 82-million-worth of gluten-free products – a number that has almost doubled in the last three years. On a global level, the market for gluten-free products is projected to reach EUR 7.4 billion by 2023.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, spelt and barley. Of the two main proteins, glutenin and gliadin, the latter is the one that causes health issues. When mixed with water, gluten proteins form a sticky network with an elastic, gluey consistency – which happens to be where the word glu-ten comes from.
Gluten-free diets and coeliac disease
How is it that only one per cent of the global population suffers from coeliac disease, when so many more maintain gluten-free diets? According to some doctors, the only people who should cut gluten out are this one per cent – the rest of us should happily carry on eating wheat just as before. Yet who would disagree that gluten-free pasta made from beans, which boasts a nutritional profile with twice as much protein and up to a fourfold increase in fibre compared with the equivalent product made from refined flour, sounds like it’s a lot better for you than the regular stodgy stuff?
Gluten-free food from Sweden
Did you know that Swedes suffer higher rates of gluten intolerance than other nationalities? According to a report published by the New England Journal of Medicine, Swedish children run a three-per-cent risk of developing gluten intolerance – twice as high the equivalent number for American children. The study was carried out after Sweden experienced an epidemic of coeliac disease between 1984 and 1996.
However, it wasn’t just the medical world that sprung into action as a result of these findings. The growing Swedish gluten-free community also needed to be fed and so, it follows, that Sweden became one of the trailblazers of the gluten-free movement.
Today, Swedish food producers such as Semper and Risenta have become household names in gluten-free homes around the world, with their outstanding, largely organic, gluten-free ranges. They are followed closely by the likes of Fria Bröd, a manufacturer of gluten-free bread, cakes and pizzas, and Kungsörnen, with its wide range of gluten-free flour, pasta and cake mixes.
Lactose-free and dairy-free: here’s why it’s good for you and the planet
There are a whole host of reasons why people cut lactose and dairy out of their diets. While some of us might actually be allergic to the milk protein, known as lactose, many more have other valid reasons for avoiding the white stuff. Dairy products are known for their inflammatory properties, as well as causing skin problems, high cholesterol and weight gain. Whereas children need milk to build up their calcium reserves, evidence suggests that adult humans only require very little dairy.
According to a study from the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the adoption of a “demitarian diet” – which refers to cutting meat and dairy consumption in half – world reduce the average European’s intake of saturated fat by 40 per cent. “Demitarianism” would be good news for the planet too. A report entitled “Nitrogren on the Table” estimates that a 50 per cent cut in meat and dairy intake would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40 per cent. Greenpeace also agrees that global dairy and meat production needs to be halved by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change and keep the Paris Agreement on track.
Lactose-free products from Sweden
Soy, almond, rice, hemp, hazelnut, macadamia, coconut, cashew, walnut – plant-based milks are making quite a splash and it’s becoming hard to keep up with all the different varieties. According to market-research company Nielsen, sales of plant-based foods grew by 8.1% last year, with vegan milk substitutes accounting for a major chunk of that increase.
However, of all the contenders for the vegan milk crown, one is emerging as a probable winner: Swedish Oatly was founded back in the 1990s when researchers from Lund University developed a patented enzyme technology that copies nature’s process, turning fibre-rich oats into nutritional liquid food that closely resembles milk. Fast-forward to 2018, and Oatly has established itself one of the top dogs in vegan milk. Its oat milk is made from 100% GMO-free Swedish oats, and contains a healthy mix of carbohydrates, proteins and unsaturated fatty acids.
What makes Oatly’s oat milk more popular than other plant-based milk substitutes is that it actually works in coffee. It has even introduced a specialist Barista product to put the debate to bed once and for all. And let’s face it, for most of us, any product that spells no more lumpy lattes is an easy one to get behind.