Are you gluten intolerant and wondering what foods contain gluten?
Gluten-free living is fraught with dodging foods commonly made with gluten or possibly processed with foods that contain it. One of the first skills those with gluten intolerance must learn is to become a gluten detective to decipher ingredient lists for harmful substances. The list of gluten suspects is long, but once you know what to look out for shopping for healthy food becomes a breeze.
Steering Clear of Gluten: Knowing What Foods Contain Gluten
Choosing to be Gluten Free
Unlike most trendy diets, such as veganism or paleo diets, gluten-free living is a vital change for people with celiac disease, gluten allergies or sensitivities. It also essential for those with autoimmune disorders or other gastrointestinal issues that arise from eating gluten.
For those with celiac disease, consuming even a small amount of gluten can render life-threatening damage to the small intestine. Those with gluten sensitivity can experience similar symptoms without intestinal damage.
For people without celiac disease or gluten intolerance, eating gluten-free can have its own drawbacks. Choosing to go gluten-free if you don’t need to can set you up for several vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can lead to flagging health in the long run.
Stirring Clear of Gluten-Containing Foods
A gluten-free diet is a tough one to live by, as many foods and common non-foods contain gluten. Knowing what ingredients to look out for as you shop and what to ask about when you dine out can help you avoid gluten. The list may seem long, but once you know what to look out for, you’ll always be prepared.
Grains that Contain Gluten
- Wheat and Wheat Derivatives – Wheatberries, semolina, spelt, farro, farrina, graham, emmer, durum
- Brewer’s yeast
- Malt – Can show up in the forms of: malt vinegar, malt syrup, malted barley flour, malt flavoring, malted milk, or milkshakes
These ingredients will usually be listed on food packaging, so keeping an eye open for them is your best defense against gluten in the long run. There are several processed foods containing gluten:
- Breads, cakes, and baked goods
- Flour tortillas
- Breading and coating (fried foods may contain gluten in their coating if they use a wheat-based flour, so be wary of this when you dine out)
- Dressings, sauces, and gravies (flour often functions as a thickener)
- Breakfast items such as pancakes, waffles, muffins, biscuits, or french toast
- Eggs are naturally gluten free (some restaurants may mix their eggs though with pancake batter for fluffier eggs
- Beer, such as lagers, stouts, and ales (gluten-free beer is available)
- Meat alternatives, such as seitan, veggie burgers, imitation bacon or sausage (many of these products are made with wheat protein to simulate the texture of meat. Be sure to read the ingredients or ask a staff before eating if at a restaurant)
Non-Edibles that Contain Gluten
Just as important to eating gluten-free is avoiding non-edible items that contain gluten that you could possibly ingest. For those with celiac disease, even the tiniest amount of gluten can render severe consequences. The following are typical non-edible items that contain gluten with the potential for accidental ingestion.
- Lip balms, glosses, and colors – Since these items go on your lips they have a strong chance of being accidentally ingested, leading to complications.
- Cosmetics – Anything on your face or close to your mouth can potentially wind up in your mouth. Finding gluten-free cosmetics may be tricky as ingredient lists are hard to find (and harder to decipher), so don’t be afraid to contact a company directly to ask about their products.
- Toothpaste – Several brands of toothpaste include gluten, but fortunately there are several that don’t. This list features manufactures of gluten-free toothpaste.
- Shampoo and Hair Care Products – If you’ve ever accidentally gotten shampoo in your mouth, or if you touch your hair and then touch your mouth, gluten-free hair products may be for you.
- Medications and Prescriptions – Gluten products are used as inactive ingredients in some medications. Always check with doctors and pharmacists before taking them to make sure that you get gluten-free medicines. If they are unsure, check with the manufacturer.
- Craft and Office Supplies – Glues, paints, paper mache, and modeling clays typically contain gluten. For younger gluten sensitives, make sure to find gluten-free alternatives before letting their creative sides out. Office supplies that may contain gluten include non-self adhesive stamps and envelopes.
Cross-Contamination: A Gluten-Free Diet’s Hidden Threat
Staying vigilant against accidental gluten exposure means avoiding cross-contamination at all costs. Even the slightest contact with gluten can make you feel ill, so you have to keep your guard up.
Avoiding Cross-Contamination at Home
Simple steps to avoiding cross-contamination at home include:
- Swapping your old toaster for a new one that only toasts gluten-free products.
- Not preparing gluten-free foods on surfaces where foods containing gluten have been prepared without cleaning.
- Never using utensils to put spreads on gluten-free products AFTER using them on ones containing gluten.
- Not using the same spreads for gluten-free and gluten-containing foods.
- Not using the same utensils for gluten-free and gluten-containing meals.
Avoiding Cross-Contamination while Dining Out
Dining out is difficult for the gluten intolerant. However, these tips can help minimize your exposure to gluten when eating at a restaurant.
- Know which foods on the menu are gluten-free
- Make sure restaurant staff are knowledgeable about cross-contamination and how to avoid it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the manager or chef directly so questions and concerns don’t get lost.
- When in doubt, do without.
Unfortunately, many restaurants are not up to snuff when it comes to gluten-free dining. Make sure to ask the right questions for your concerns and you’ll be sure to find a restaurant that serves gluten-free cuisine without the fear of cross-contamination.
Knowing what foods contain gluten will not just help alleviate your gluten sensitivity symptoms; it will also overall improve your health.