Nowadays, almost everyone has at least one friend or family member who has banished gluten from their diet due to Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity. With more and more people turning their backs on gluten-rich foods every day, it can be startling to hear that many of them have no perception of what “gluten” actually is at all. So what is this supposedly harmful, mysterious substance? Here’s everything you need to know.
What It Is
Most of us know what wheat is, but if you don’t, think of things like bread, cookies, crackers, pasta and cereal made from wheat flour.
This is a grain very similar to barley and wheat. Think rye bread and beer.
This is another grain full of protein and fiber. Some foods that often contain barley include soups and stews, coffee substitutes and beer, among many others.
This is germinated grains that have been dried via “malting.” Malt can be found in a multitude of products, such as beer, malted shakes and Whoppers.
This is a yeast used to make bread, and notoriously, beer.
What It’s Not
It’s slightly humorous that people mistake rice for containing gluten, for most gluten free products, such as pasta, are actually made from rice flour.
It is easy to see why people mistake this ingredient for malt, but in reality, maltodextrin is processed so much that any gluten-containing protein is entirely removed.
Although whey sounds like wheat, it is actually the watery part of milk and has nothing to do with gluten at all.
Many people don’t fully understand what soy is, which is why they assume it contains gluten. Soy is simply derived from soybean plants, and is therefore naturally gluten free.
Modified Food Starch
In America, this product is almost entirely made from corn or potato starch. If it contains wheat, the label is legally required to say so. Otherwise, this ingredient is always free of gluten.
Where It’s Hiding
Sauces and Gravies
Many sauces, notoriously soy sauce, contain gluten unless specified as “gluten free” on the label. Similarly, most gravies use flour as a thickening agent, so always be on the lookout.
Most processed meats, such as hot dogs, sausages, deli meats and meatballs, often contain wheat-based fillers and/or breadcrumbs.
Medication & Vitamins
Make sure to talk to your doctor about your dietary restrictions so that they can prescribe you medications devoid of gluten. Also, some gummy vitamins contain gluten, so definitely check labels in the store beforehand. Also, check out glutenfreedrugs.com which has a list of all the gluten free medications on the market.
While select skin and cosmetic brands have started labeling their products as gluten free, you still have to be extremely wary of what you put on your skin, your lips, and in your hair. Even if gluten is not ingested, it can still cause rashes on people with Celiac Disease or people who are simply very sensitive to it.
Although Sake is technically made from rice, many brands add barley during the fermentation process to increase flavor.