If you’ve ever thought about going on a diet, chances are you’ve probably heard of the gluten-free diet by now. Celebrities swear by it, but is it something you should try? People have the misconception that cutting gluten out of their diet will help them lose weight quickly and become healthier in general. Before you run to Trader Joe’s for their overpriced gluten-free snacks, here are some facts about the forbidden fruit.

What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. Most people think gluten is only in breads and cookies, but it can also appear in cereals, soy sauce, beer, even lip balms.

Why do people go gluten free?
The best reason for someone to go gluten free is if s/he has celiac disease, a hypersensitivity to gluten in the small intestine that makes it difficult to digest food.  Celiac disease affects only 1% of the population, so those in the 99% who avoid gluten have no legitimate need to.

“Gluten free diets are healthier than regular diets.”
Not necessarily. You might think that you’re eating healthier because you’ve stopped stuffing your face with bagels and pizza. While this may cut excess calories out of your diet, many gluten-free products actually contain more sugar and fat than their counterparts. Just because a product is gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy; gluten-free cookies and processed foods typically have the same amount of calories, if not more than the regular ones you’re avoiding. Gluten-free products also tend to have less fiber, vitamins and minerals than the regular version, leaving your diet deficient of the essential nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Bottom line:
A gluten-free diet doesn’t make you healthy overnight, nor does it guarantee weight loss. If you don’t need to cut gluten out of your diet, don’t stress yourself out about eating gluten-containing products.