Millions of Americans have sworn off gluten, claiming a gluten-free diet has helped them shed pounds, boost their energy and feel healthier all around. Gluten by itself is neither harmful nor unhealthy—it’s simply a protein found in several grains. Yet throngs of folks swear by gluten-free diets, typically avoiding bread, crackers and pasta. And that’s just the start. This compound is an integral ingredient in myriad foods, such as salad dressings, soy sauce, mustard, baked beans and beer. Its widespread presence can make cutting gluten out of your diet surprisingly difficult, inconvenient, time-consuming and expensive.
Which begs the big question: Is this wildly popular trend truly beneficial to health—or at least enough so to make ousting gluten worth the trouble? More importantly, is swearing off gluten even safe?