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Should you jump on the gluten-free bandwagon?

You have likely heard the term "gluten free" by now. As recent as five years ago, the term was virtually unheard of, whereas it is now a $10.5 billion food and beverage industry, growing a whopping 44 per cent between 2011 and 2013. Gluten free diets are heavily endorsed by celebrities and have been adopted by numerous women to lose weight and obtain healthy skin, among other reasons. While a gluten free diet is necessary for those with celiac disease (which is about 1 per cent of the population in North America) and for the 6 per cent who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the rest of us may be better off avoiding a gluten free diet.

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley and in foods that are derived from these grains, such as bread, pasta, crackers, and baked goods. When we take gluten out of our diet, it is often replaced with refined ingredients such as cornstarch, potato starch, white rice and tapioca, all of which provide little nutritional value. That being said, there are healthy replacements for gluten, such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth and pure oats. The best course of action is to consult with your doctor first if you want to adopt a gluten free diet, to determine if it is really a better choice for your health.

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