“Gluten-free.” You know the term and see it, everywhere — even on products that never did contain gluten. As gluten-free has gone from being trendy to having a steadfast presence in grocery stores, more than just those with Celiac Disease have found reasons to enjoy these products.
No matter your reasoning for eating gluten free, you’re in luck. Gone are the days when gluten free just didn’t taste good. These days you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between gluten-free and non gluten-free products.
So what exactly is gluten?
Gluten refers to the storage proteins (also known as prolamins and glutelins) found in wheat, rye, barley and hybrids of these grains. All grains contain proteins, but only some of these proteins are harmful to people with gluten-related disorders. For those that do have gluten-related sensitivities, even small amounts of gluten can cause harmful reactions.
What contains gluten?
Gluten is found in grains, hybrids of grains and derivatives of wheat. If any of these ingredients are listed on an ingredient panel, then that product is not gluten free. Here’s what to look for:
- triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye)
- einkorn wheat
- Kamut® or khorasan wheat
- malted barley flour
- malted milk
- malt extract
- malt syrup or flavoring
- malt vinegar
- Brewer’s yeast
- wheat starch
- modified starch
- Oats (unless the oats are certified gluten-free, such as Bob’s Red Mill Oats)
What does Gluten-free encompass in the grocery store?
Technically, products that are gluten free are free of gluten and any possible gluten contamination. i.e. gluten free products are not made at facilities that make products that contain gluten. According to the FDA’s Gluten-Free Food Labeling Final Rule:
- “Gluten-free” prohibits the use of gluten-containing grains in a product, including wheat, rye, barley or hybrids of these grains
- Cannot contain ingredients deriving from a gluten-containing grain that has not been processed to remove gluten protein.
- Can include ingredients deriving from a gluten-containing grain that has been processed to remove gluten protein, if the finished product is tested to meet the defined level for gluten-free labeling. This means that ingredient has to result in the presence of less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten in food. This includes such ingredients as wheat starch, wheat grass, barley grass, etc.
- The finished gluten-free product must regularly test to less than 20 ppm.
- Oats and other naturally gluten-free grains may be identified as gluten-free if they can document that they are under the threshold (20 ppm) allowed for gluten-free labeling.
- The Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO) takes labeling one step further. To receive the black and white Gluten-Free certification or the GF in a circle, that you see on products, all ingredients must contain 10 ppm or less of gluten, as opposed to the FDA’s 20 ppm. GFCO labeling also does not allow any barley-based ingredients in its certified products. Other naturally gluten-free products may be labeled GF as long as they indicate that all such products are naturally gluten-free.
How can I tell if a product is gluten free?
It used to be that you had to read the ingredient panel with a keen eye to figure out if it contained gluten. Now, thankfully, it’s usually plastered everywhere on the packaging. A certified gluten-free product should carry a recognized gluten-free certification, such as the black and white GF in a circle logo from the Gluten Free Certification Organization. You should also read the ingredients panel. Look for “contains” or “made in”, which could say “may contain wheat” or “made in a facility that also produces wheat products.” Avoid anything that hints at the presence of gluten contamination if you need to eat gluten free.
If a product is gluten free, but you want further back up, call the company. If they are gluten free, they should have all of their documentation of testing and product specs at the ready to show you.
While shopping at Lucky’s Market, look for the logo on the right.
What you can eat:
These days, you can pretty much get everything gluten free. It’s just a matter of finding the product that you enjoy the most both in taste and texture. There are now plenty of pastas, cereals, baking mixes, breads and snacks to choose from.
Many products including condiments such as oils, vinegars, ketchup and mustards are naturally gluten free. Choose gluten-free-labeled tamari instead of traditional soy sauce. Honey, stevia and other natural sweeteners are also gluten free as are single-ingredient dried spices.
In addition, to eating corn, potatoes or beans, there are plenty of grain and flour options to keep you cooking and baking. Consider these options as gluten-free partners in the kitchen:
- quinoa (grain or flour)
- amaranth (grain or flour)
- sorghum (grain or flour)
- buckwheat (grain or flour)
- rice (grain or flour)
- millet (grain or flour)
- teff (grain or as flour)
- chia seeds (as seed or flour)
- coconut flour
- almond flour
- sprouted flour
- potato flour
- oat flour
- tapioca flour (this is a great starch replacement)
- garbanzo bean flour