The delectable layers of a croissant, the sponginess of a buttered biscuit or the scrumptious morsel of a blueberry muffin all exhibit gluten’s characteristics. Gluten is a component of wheat that gives these and other products their sticky and spongy texture. However, people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or other health conditions must eliminate it from their diet. You can avoid gluten by checking the ingredients lists on packaged foods and by eating fresh whole foods. Also, become familiar with the sneakier gluten offenders to quickly and confidently determine whether a food belongs on your plate or not.
Food items that generally contain gluten include breads, crackers, croutons, cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, doughnuts, canned soups, pastas and flour tortillas. This list is not all-inclusive; there are countless food items which may contain wheat and gluten. Unless labeled gluten-free or free of forbidden ingredients, avoid them on a gluten-free diet. No food is worth getting sick and harming your body – so when in doubt, leave it out. Other atypical gluten-containing foods include couscous, rusk, seitan, udon noodles, matzo and groats.
When looking over ingredient lists, check for a few key words to alert you for gluten. Any ingredient containing the word “wheat”, “malt” or “barley” is forbidden on a gluten-free regimen. For example, avoid wheat grass, hydrolyzed wheat protein, wheat bran, wheat nuts, malt milk, malt extract, malt flavoring, malt vinegar and barley grass. Triticale is a cross between wheat and rye and should not be used, nor should rye. Sprouted grains, such as sprouted wheat, rye or spelt are not gluten-free. Other forbidden ingredients include bran, brewer’s yeast, roux and bulgur.
It is essential to become familiar with the alternate names – or nicknames – used for gluten-containing ingredients. For example, many types of flour contain gluten and should not be used on a gluten-free regimen. For instance, steer clear of enriched, bleached or unbleached flour, cake flour, bread flour, graham flour, semolina flour, durum flour and spelt flour. Also, avoid farina and kamut. Additional ingredients that may unexpectedly contain gluten are edible starch, edible films and edible coatings, cereal binding and farro.
Gluten can hide in the most unexpected places. Check salad dressing, condiment and soup labels for hidden forbidden ingredients. Gluten is commonly used as a thickening agent and could be present in marinades, stocks, stews and gravies. If you are unsure about a specific ingredient or product, contact the manufacturer and make an inquiry.
Sara Police has been writing nutrition and fitness-related articles since 2012. Her research has been published in scientific journals such as "Current Hypertension Reports," "Obesity" and the "American Journal of Physiology." She holds a PhD in nutritional sciences from the University of Kentucky and teaches online nutrition courses for Kaplan University.