Michael Pollan thinks there’s more to the gluten-free craze than gluten intolerance alone. According to the New York Times best-selling author, “The number of people that are genuinely gluten-sensitive cannot be growing as fast as the market niche is growing.”
In a wide-ranging conversation with HuffPost Live’s Josh Zepps, Pollan touched on several major issues regarding diet and agriculture, including GMO labeling, the Paleo diet, agricultural regulation, antibiotics and the microbiome.
On the current hype around a gluten-free diet, Pollan said said that he thought that gluten was a bit of a "social contagion."
“There are people who feel better when they get off gluten, which may not have anything to do with the gluten," he said. "It may have to do with the fact that maybe they’re getting off carbs."
But, Pollan noted, “There is a real category too of celiac disease … and in fact the number of those people has gone up in the past 50 years, which is interesting.”
Pollan stressed the healthiest diet is one free of processed foods.
“Some people get off gluten and then they get onto this highly processed gluten-free category. Look at the ingredients in those gluten-free products. I mean, it’s a lot of xanthan gum and a lot of food additives that, I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to eat.”
So, processed foods are the ultimate enemy. But what foods does Pollan like?
Pollan repeatedly spoke about the importance of bacteria, and his newfound appreciation for fermentation.
“I really fell in love with fermentation and working with these microbes, which are just so miraculous," he said.
If you want a healthy balance of microbes, just make sure you're also getting prebiotics, like fiber, says Pollan. That's what the probiotics eat (and one of the reasons Pollan believes fermented vegetables are a better source of probiotics than a probiotic pill).
No matter your dietary persuasion, Pollan says we still have a lot left to learn.
“Digestion and food itself is still a mystery we’re trying to unpack.”
You can catch the full interview here!