But what even is gluten anyway?
Gluten is made up of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, usually found in cereal grains like wheat and barley. It's what gives breads its elastic, doughy consistency. It's just protein. It's not toxic, unnatural, or unhealthy.
With all the new grocery store items now being made in gluten-free versions, one may wonder if they should go down that route. The short answer? Probably not.
Unless a person has celiac disease, there is no health benefit to ditching the gluten. According to WebMD, about 1% of Americans have this autoimmune disease that causes gastrointestinal discomfort and damage to the small intestine if gluten is consumed.
Others who may want to give the gluten-free lifestyle a go is those with gluten sensitivity. Similar to lactose intolerance, consuming gluten may irritate the digestive system in the same way someone with lactose intolerance would be bothered by drinking a glass of milk, just without the physical damage from celiac disease. Even so, those with gluten sensitivity probably don't have to cut it out completely.
The truth is that the majority of people do not need to go gluten-free. It's no healthier than a normal diet, and as does any other diet that excludes a certain group, may even be less healthy due to the nutritional deficits. Most gluten free products are not only more expensive, but also lack nutrients like iron, B vitamins, and fiber, and are usually even higher in fat and sugar to make it taste better.
Those who have claimed success on the gluten-free diet are likely mistaking the cause of their higher weight to be gluten, when it was really just the excess amount of carbohydrate rich foods such as pasta, bread, and crackers.
There's no shortcut or magic secret to a healthy diet. Even fats and carbs, which are commonly feared, are essential to health as long as they're not in excess. Just as "diet" soda is no better for someone than regular soda, unless you have a diagnosed medical condition, a gluten-free diet is no better and perhaps even worse than a well-rounded, balanced diet.