When comedian Jimmy Kimmel sent a camera crew to ask people who ate gluten-free diets what, exactly, gluten is, responses ranged from “It’s like a grain…right?” to “wheat” that should be avoided because “it makes you fat.”

“Here in L.A., it’s comparable to Satanism,” Kimmel riffed.

Actually, gluten is a combination of two proteins — and, as those who eat gluten-free diets do know, it is found primarily in wheat. The proteins (gliadin and glutenin) are also found in rye, barley, spelt, triticale, kamut, farro, and einkorn.

Gluten-free: Is It a Fad, Or a Healthy Diet?

Gluten feeds plant embryos. If you bake wheat bread, you may buy vital wheat gluten at the grocery store: It gives wheat bread dough its elasticity, and gives wheat bread its traditional texture.

Some people avoid gluten because they have Celiac disease or because they have a lesser sensitivity that can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, and other symptoms. But most Americans who eat gluten-free diets do so because they think it will make them healthier or thinner.

Is Global Warming Making Food Less Nutritious?

While many nutritionists don’t advocate restricting diet unless necessary, they encourage people who do try it to choose naturally gluten-free foods, like fruits and vegetables. Replacing processed foods with gluten-free processed foods probably won’t give you any sort of health boost. Or help you lose weight.

When you embark on a gluten-free diet, nutritionists recommend making sure you get enough iron, calcium, B-vitamins, vitamin D, and fiber.

Photo: iStockPhoto