There are times when we all want a free pass. When we would like to be able to eat whatever we desire without consequences, like a child at a birthday party. But to maintain our health, we need to be mindful about what we eat at all times.

According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, 1 percent of the American population has celiac disease. Another 6 percent has gluten sensitivity. It is reasonable to assume that these percentages apply to all industrialized nations.

For these people, avoiding gluten is very important for their health. If people with celiac disease eat gluten their intestines can become severely damaged. This can lead to neurological disorders, autoimmune diseases, and cancers. It is vital that they avoid all food that contains even a little gluten. But this does not mean that they, or anyone else can eat any food product as long as it is gluten-free.

1. Gluten-free Does Not Automatically Mean Healthy

For food to actually nourish the body it needs to be as whole as possible, minimally processed, and fresh. Most gluten-free treats are made of highly refined flours that are actually less nutritious than organic whole wheat would be for people who can tolerate it.

Most gluten-free grains that are used in processed food products are stripped down to make them more malleable and shelf-stable. This is helpful to keep an otherwise unstable grain from going rancid as quickly. But it means that the vital nutrients have been stripped as well. Most gluten-free packaged goods are the nutritional equivalent of eating a bowl of white rice or corn meal with sugar sprinkled on top.

2. Sugar Is Still Sugar

And that leads us to one of the most damaging aspects of gluten-free treats, the sugar content. Sugar consumption has been linked to heart disease, cancer, depression, and a host of other illnesses. Because the flours used in gluten-free treats are not as flavorful as wheat, often a lot or sugar is added to make them tastier. And deadlier.

Some gluten-free desserts that are marketed as healthy contain 30 grams or more of sugar per serving. The USDA recommends that adults have no more than 10 grams of added sugar per day, so this is three times your daily allotment in just a couple cookies or a slice of cake.

Even if the product is a chip or cracker with minimal added sugar, it still might act like sugar in your body. The more refined a grain is, the more it affects the body the same way sugar would. Refined foods spike blood sugar levels and then cause them to drop, which triggers an insulin response. This leads to a depressed metabolism and a bigger waistline, even without the gluten.

3. And Fat Is Fat

To make up for the difference in texture, many gluten-free snack food companies will use an exorbitant amount of fat in their treats.

Excess dietary fat quickly leads to extra bodily fat, especially the abdominal fat that contributes to obesity, diabetes, and cancer. While some fat is necessary, we can easily get all the fat we need from nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconut.

The oil used in most gluten-free treats is usually not a type that we want to be eating. Seed oils, such as safflower, sunflower, and sesame, contribute to inflammation in the body. And some of these treats may contain hydrogenated oils, otherwise known as trans-fats, which raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and are one of the biggest contributors to heart disease.

4. Fiber

Most processed gluten-free treats have been stripped of fiber. Fiber slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and nourishes the healthy bacteria in the colon. Without it, these grains are turned into empty carbs.

5. It Might Be the Phytic Acid, Not the Gluten

While many people are actually sensitive to gluten, many more are affected by the presence of phytic acid. Phytic acid is an enzyme inhibitor that coats nearly all grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It is a natural protective mechanism to ensure the seeds survive transport and germinate in fertile soil.

Eating grains, even gluten-free ones, that have not been processed to remove the phytic acid can cause damage to the digestive tract. To be easily digestible, grains, legumes, nuts, and other seeds usually need to be soaked in an acidic solution for at least two days, and/or fermented, which very few manufacturers bother to do.

6. GMO Woes

Some of the wheat-substitute products, such as corn and soy, are often genetically modified. Eating genetically modified foods is potentially as dangerous for our health as wheat. Be wary of products that contain soy, corn, beet juice, potatoes, and canola oil if these ingredients are not certified organic.

7. Paying a Premium for a Food Fad

Gluten-free has become a new buzzword. Many companies are cashing in on the popularity of this term to sell products that are not necessarily healthy or high quality. Be wary of paying a lot for a snack food that is basically just some kind of flour, oil, and sweetener, simply because it has a gluten-free label on it.

Eating healthfully is about choosing nutritious food that actually nourishes your body. Its okay to treat yourself occasionally, just choose natural treats like fruit. If you are going to have a packaged gluten-free snack, look for one that is free of cane sugar, corn, soy, any kind of syrup, canola, safflower, or sunflower oil, and excess salt. Or better yet, make your own.

Also, if you are wondering if GMOs are Causing Gluten Intolerance & Digestive Distress, watch this video: