MARQUETTE — In the past decade, gluten–free products have been popping up across the country in many supermarkets and restaurants. Gluten–free diets are very important for some people but for others, but, it may not be as critical as some make it sound.

These days, it seems like you can walk into any grocery store and find almost an entire aisle dedicated to gluten–free products. Gluten is a protein that is found in many grains, most commonly in wheat, rye and barley. A quick online search would have some places telling you to avoid it like the plague. But is it really that bad? For people who are diagnosed with celiac disease, it is life–threatening.

“They have to completely avoid gluten and if they don’t avoid gluten, they have the risk of developing cancer, a 30% higher chance and other autoimmune diseases so it’s really important for them to stay away from gluten 100 percent,” Registered Dietitian Michele Boehmer.

But what if you don’t have celiac disease? Most people use gluten free diets as a method to manage their weight as the list of things you can’t eat is quite lengthy.

“If you did it for a week or two, it may help the symptoms. But you have to know what is a gluten–free product and what isn’t. You would be shocked and amazed that corn flakes have gluten in them and rice crispies have gluten in them, unless their specifically gluten–free,” Boehmer said.

The options are plentiful, including gluten–free cookies and potato chips. But multiple studies have shown that gluten doesn’t actually harm the body in any way, rather that there are just some people whose bodies can’t handle it. But for those who can, there’s no need to take it to the extreme.

“They try to go through life saying “I’m avoiding gluten” and so they go to a buffet and they can’t eat anything because everything has gluten in it. So they’re successful in their weight loss but that’s a really poor plan to lose weight,” said Boehmer.

The best option for those who just want to lower their gluten intake is to have a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which are of course gluten–free. But do talk with a dietitian if you think you may have celiac disease.