Gluten Free Facts
What is gluten?
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye and related wheat species such as spelt and kamut. It helps baked goods keep their form and chewy texture and is also added to other food items more and more, both for consistency and taste purposes.
Helpful Hint: Buckwheat, contrary to its name, is not actually wheat and does not contain gluten.
What foods contain gluten?
The obvious foods that contain gluten include foods made from a flour base. Wheat, barley, and rye based breads, cookies, pastries, and bagels all contain gluten. However, hidden sources of gluten are abundant in many packaged goods from soy sauce, to spice mixes, and breath mints. More and more companies are voluntarily labeling their products as gluten free and some even go through a gluten free certification process.
Here is a short list of foods that can have hidden gluten:
- Luncheon meat
- Blue cheese
- Gravy and gravy powder
- Baked beans
- Self basting turkeys
- Seasoning Mixes
- Instant coffee
- Brown rice syrup
- Potato chips
- Soy sauce
- Hot Chocolate
- Salad dressings
- Curry powder
- White pepper
- Malt vinegar
- Breath mints
- Oats (while naturally gluten free, there is a risk of contamination through harvesting, milling, and processing; Udi’s only uses certified gluten free oats) (1) (2)
For a full list of unsafe ingredients, click here:
Who should eat a gluten free diet?
Those that must eat a gluten free diet include those with Celiac Disease in which the only cure is a gluten free diet. In this case, eating gluten causes serious medical issues that can affect an individual’s immediate well being and long-term health.
Who can get Celiac Disease?
The short answer is: anyone. Some are more predisposed to have this disease than others, especially if a family member has been diagnosed. It has been noted that northern European countries, specifically Nordic countries, as well as Italy and Ireland have a higher rate of Celiac Disease, and approximately 1 out of every 133 Americans have Celiac Disease. (7)
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder where gluten triggers the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine. Over time, Celiac Disease can cause malabsorption, leading to a wide range of health problems such as iron and mineral deficiencies, osteoporosis, liver disease, infertility, neurological disorders, and even some forms of cancer. (3, 4)
For more information, click here:
Loose Labeling Terminology
By Danna Korn, Living Gluten Free for Dummies, 2nd Edition
It would be great if you could just read a label and know what ingredients are in a product. Isn’t that the point of having ingredient listings? But unfortunately, labels aren’t always telling the entire story, and some ingredients aren’t consistent; sometimes they have gluten and sometimes they don’t.
A law called the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) that took effect in 2006 has helped – a lot. This law requires clear labeling of all foods that contain any of the top eight allergens – wheat, milk, eggs, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, and soybeans. This means manufacturers must clearly identify wheat and all of its derivatives on food labels.
With the law in place, knowing which foods are definitely off-limits because they contain wheat is much easier. Reading labels and knowing what’s in a product is much more definitive, because wheat is really the bulk of what you’re avoiding on a gluten-free diet.
Although wheat and its derivatives are now called out on all labels, you still need to watch for other gluten-containing grains (barley, rye, and cross-contaminated oats) and their derivatives, and realize that they can be hidden in flavorings and additives.
Malt usually comes from barley, and products that use malt as a flavoring don’t necessarily call it out on the label. Natural flavorings for instance, may contain barley malt but be listed as ‘natural flavorings’ on a label.