Going gluten-free is squarely in the mainstream now. Sales of gluten-free foods have nearly

tripled in recent years, as more and more people become convinced that gluten causes many

health problems. But according to Consumer Reports, just a small percentage of the population

has a medical reason to avoid gluten. In fact, doing so could do more harm than good.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, has been blamed for causing problems like

migraines, depression, and joint pain based on limited scientific evidence. Strong evidence

does link gluten to digestive problems but only in very specific cases.

Consumer Reports says avoiding gluten is warranted in many cases, but it's not for the vast

majority of those people who are not allergic to gluten yet still avoid it. Less than 7% of

Americans have celiac disease or another condition that causes gluten sensitivity which can

lead to severe digestive issues.

For the rest of the population, unnecessarily eliminating whole grains that contain gluten can

also eliminate important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients which protect against cancer,

heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Another downside: gluten-free foods often have added sugar,

fat, and sodium to make them more palatable. And if the gluten-free foods are made with rice

flour, as many are, research shows you could end up ingesting worrisome amounts of arsenic

and mercury.

For those who need to be on gluten-free diets, you can still get the health benefits of whole

grains such as quinoa , buckwheat, and amaranth. They are gluten-free and full of fiber,

vitamins, and minerals.