More than 1300 gluten-free products showed up in supermarkets last year alone. These foods are good for people with celiac disease, which is on the rise. But Consumer Reports ShopSmart says gluten-free isn't for everyone.
"Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye. And it's a binding agent that holds dough together as it bakes," said Sue Perry of ShopSmart.
Consumer Reports ShopSmart took a closer look to see if you should buy into the hot gluten-free food trend.
"There's a greater awareness about gluten now because there's better recognition of celiac disease, which damages the small intestine. That damage prevents people with celiac disease from absorbing the nutrients in food," said Perry.
And gluten can show up in unlikely places, like hot dogs, tea, deli meats, and even lip gloss.
"There are people that don't have celiac who say they feel better eliminating gluten from their diets. But gluten-free products do have nutritional deficiencies, and they can cost two to three times more," said Perry.
ShopSmart says consider cheaper alternatives that offer good nutrition-grains like quinoa, and buckwheat.
And corn is gluten-free too. So don't bother paying more for gluten-free tortillas.
"Get naturally gluten-free Rice-Chex, or better yet, a generic rice cereal and save even more," said Perry.
With money save, you can splurge on a gluten-free dinner out.
That's because more and more restaurants, like Outback Steakhouse, are offering gluten-free entrees.
Other money-saving ideas for naturally gluten-free snacks-consider vegetables, nuts, and popcorn.
And some web sites can help you shop for savings.
Amazonglutenfree.com has extensive listings of gluten-free foods.
And Super Target and Costco are worth checking, although they offer fewer products.