Gluten-free diets have exploded in popularity in recent years, a trend that shows no signs of slowing despite limited evidence that avoiding the protein found in wheat, rye and barley is beneficial to most consumers.

Check out AsapSCIENCE's explainer on what gluten really is and the effects of avoiding it:

Gluten free-diets are trendy, but are they healthy for everyone? ASAP Science explains. (ASAP Science)

Sales of gluten-free products grew 44 percent from 2011 to 2013, according to Mintel. A large share of that growth came from consumers choosing gluten-free products even though they don't suffer from Celiac disease or gluten sensitivities — the two primary medical reasons to avoid it — because they believe it's a healthier option.

The good news is that there's no risk to avoiding gluten on its own. But, as the AsapSCIENCE team points out, dieters should be careful to replace the nutrients they would get from whole grains, and be wary of increased sugar and fat used as binding agents in gluten-free products.

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