Gluten, not to be confused with glutton, is a mixture of proteins (glutelin and gliadin) found in wheat, rye, barley, and some oats. These proteins are not soluble in water, and they also give wheat and other grains its elastic structure. Gluten is the glue that keeps the grains together. That’s why a lot of gluten free foods are as dry as the Saharan desert and easily fall apart. As late comedian John Pinette once said, “You know what has gluten in it? Everything! Have you tried gluten free food? It needs gluten! I don’t know what gluten is, but apparently, it’s delicious, and you need to put that back in there!”
In fact, according to Alessio Fasano, the visiting professor at Medical Director for The University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research and the founder of Mass Gerneral’s Center for Celiac Research in Boston, no one can properly digest gluten. That’s right. None of us can break down the proteins that make bread smell so delicious and stick together. No one can properly digest any known beer. While gluten harmlessly passes through most people’s digestion system, it can harm people who are either sensitive or allergic to gluten. Please refer to my article The Signs and Symptoms of Celiac Disease to understand who is at risk of a gluten allergy.
What has Gluten in it?
Gluten is found primarily in one of the most basic staples of the human diet since the dawn of civilization: bread! Bread is a great source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (which varies on the type of bread). If you do not have a gluten allergy, then you should keep bread in your diet. However, if you either have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, then you should avoid these foods:
- soy sauce
- seasoned rice
- flour tortillas
- bread crumbs
- fried foods that use bread crumbs
- soups that contain noodles
- baked goods such as pie, pastries, donuts, etc.
- some salad dressings and croutons
- whey protein (which can be found in ice cream, dressing, ketchup, etc.)
- beer (and any alcohol made from the above mentioned grains)
- drugs and over the counter medications
- herbal supplements and vitamins
As a general rule, anything that uses, mixes, contains, or is made in the same factory as wheat, rye, or barley most likely has gluten in it!
Check Those Labels!
If you are unsure if something contains gluten, then look at the ingredients to see if it contains any wheat, rye, or barley. You can also check the labels on food products to see if they may contain or contains gluten, or if they are gluten free. Be aware that some gluten free labeled foods may have been made in factories that make foods with wheat. Do not risk cross contamination if you have celiac disease!
Some restaurants offer gluten free menus, so make sure that you ask them for a gluten free menu. If they don’t have a gluten free menu, then your next best option would be to talk to a manager. They are usually good with knowing what’s on their menus. It’s also a good idea to ask them if they cook gluten free meals on a separate grill. Remember to avoid cross contamination!
If you’re trying to avoid gluten and are still unsure whether a food or drink contains gluten, then stick to this philosophy: when in doubt, don’t!
Let’s Hear From You!
Have you been surprised with how many foods contain gluten? Which meals, dressings, drinks, and other foods were you surprised to contain gluten? Do you remember when gluten free foods were first introduced in the United States? Have you ever tried gluten free food? How do you think it tastes?
I remember when I first started my gluten free diet a few years ago, there weren’t many options of foods that I could eat. Even the gluten free section at Stop and Shop and Walmart was nearly non-existent. The first time I ate a gluten free food was when I ate gluten free noodles. The taste was horrible! It was dry, hard, and bitter. I remember thinking that I would rather have ate a tub of toothpaste than choke on those gluten free noodles! However, gluten free foods have come a long way since then! There are a lot more options for people on a gluten free diet, and they are starting to taste better.