Firstly, what the heck even is gluten? Here’s a little explanation:
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.”
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s have a look at what foods are gluten-free:
- Fruits and vegetables: these are all gluten-free, however, be aware of packaged fruit and vegetables in sauces because a lot of sauces contain gluten. Also, a lot of people get confused over potatoes, but all potatoes are gluten-free.
- Meat and seafood: most meat and seafood are gluten-free, but beware of crumbed meat, stuffing and again, sauces, as these will most likely contain gluten. A lot of packaged meat you find at the supermarket now actually state whether they are gluten-free.
- Dairy products: this includes milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, butter, margarine, real cheese (always check the labels and from my own experience, be cautious of grated and processed cheese), plain yoghurt, as well as most ice-creams and some custards and soy milks.
- Grains and grain-like plants: these include corn, plain rice (all types: white, brown, basmati etc.), amaranth, buckwheat, arrowroot, buckwheat, cassava, flax, millet, quinoa, sorghum, soy, tapioca, teff, polenta and psyllium.
- Flours: this includes flours made from the GF grains listed above, potato, nuts, beans and coconut. You’re best making sure that the packaging is labeled gluten-free.
- Bread, cakes and biscuits: corn cakes, corn tortillas, corn taco shells, rice crackers, rice crispbread, most papadums (but double check the ingredient list, especially at restaurants- I was ‘glutened’ the other week due to this!) as well as packaged breads, cakes and biscuits that are all labeled as gluten-free.
- Pasta and noodles: including 100% rice, corn, buckwheat, mungbean and quinoa pasta, as well as specifically made gluten-free pasta. As for noodles, you have the option of rice noodles, rice/bean vermicelli and 100% buckwheat noodles.
- Condiments: this includes nut butters, tahini, jam, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, golden syrup, cocoa, cacao, vinegar (EXCEPT malt), oil (olive, sunflower, vegetable, canola, peanut, sesame, rice bran, coconut). There are also some sauces, salad dressing and tomato pastes that are gluten free, but NOT all, so read the ingredients list or look for a gluten-free label.
- Nuts, beans and legumes: these are all gluten free, just be careful of any that are in sauces or have added seasonings.
- Snacks: plain chips, plain corn chips, unflavoured popcorn, popcorn kernels and some plain chocolate.
- Drinks: mineral water, tea, coffee, some juices and iced teas and distilled alcoholic beverages (the distillation effectively removes the gluten).
- Other: herbs, spices, salt, pepper and sugar. Be wary of seasonings and seasoning mixes.
- Common gluten-free ingredients: glucose syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, lecithin, maltodextrin, corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, food starch (EXCEPT when it states that it is from wheat), acid (citric, lactic or malic), sucrose, dextrose, lactose, guar and xanthan gums, vanilla extract and colourings (unless it states it is made from wheat).
Due to the fact that coeliac disease and gluten intolerances and allergies have become more common, there is an increasing supply in commercially prepared gluten-free products. Some of these items are breakfast cereals, bread, wraps, pizza bases, pasta, biscuits, cake mixes, breadcrumbs, pasta, pastries, snack bars and beer.
There are a few ingredients that are gluten-free even if it states it is derived from wheat because they are so highly processed. These are maltodextrin from wheat, caramel colour from wheat, dextrose from wheat and wheat glucose syrup (it may also be worded as ‘glucose syrup from wheat’).
Oats are another tricky and very controversial food in the gluten-free world. They don’t technically contain gluten but they are subjected to cross-contamination by gluten-containing grains. It is for this reason why most mainstream commercial oats are not gluten-free, unless otherwise stated of course. So to be able to consume oats, you have to make sure they have been specially processed to avoid cross-contamination.
Interestingly, research has shown that oats contain a protein called avenin, which has been found to cause a gluten-like reaction to some people with coeliac disease. In my personal opinion, I believe it’s best to avoid oats if you have coeliac disease or any gluten intolerances or allergies.
Lastly, ALWAYS check the labels of foods and drinks very carefully. Sometimes gluten can be hiding in the most unlikely products. If you are new to a gluten-free diet, don’t worry – although it seems confusing now and you may accidentally ‘gluten’ yourself along the way (I’ve been gluten-free for 5 years now and I occasionally make mistakes!), it does get easier. Soon enough it will become second-nature 🙂
Stay tuned for more ‘gluten-free’ posts from yours truly x
P.S. If you haven’t already seen it, check out my post Getting the Facts Straight About Gluten-Free Diets!