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How Do I Identify Gluten-Free Ingredients?

By Bobbie Fredericks
Updated May 17, 2024
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Finding gluten-free ingredients for cooking can be intimidating for people who have never used them. Some products are labeled as gluten-free, but it is important to know which ingredients typically have gluten. People may follow a gluten-free lifestyle because of health issues, to try to lose weight, or to be healthier. Gluten-free ingredients should never come in contact with products that contain gluten, or any common surfaces.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, as well as products made from these grains. Since gluten is added to many products, it may be difficult to determine which have gluten and which do not. Wheat derivatives might be listed as bran, faro, graham, kamut, semolina, spelt, and others. Some oats are also contaminated with wheat.

Since gluten is used as a thickening agent, it can be found in unexpected sources. Some soups, seasonings, and processed meats contain gluten. It is very important to read labels carefully when selecting gluten-free ingredients. Products labeled as gluten-free may contain no gluten or an amount generally considered safe.

Rice and corn are two common gluten-free ingredient that can be made into flour and starch. Potatoes, beans, and quinoa are also popular gluten-free ingredients. Other ingredients that do not contain gluten are arrowroot, buckwheat, and soy. These can be used to make foods that typically contain gluten, such as bread and pasta.

Some gluten-free foods should still be limited in consumption. It is recommended that oats that are not considered to be contaminated with gluten be limited to one half cup a day. Most dairy products do not contain gluten, although some, such as cheeses, might. Wine and liqueurs that are distilled do not contain gluten, but other alcoholic beverages do. Malt is a gluten-containing ingredient.

Celiac disease is a common reason to follow a gluten-free diet. In patients with celiac disease, the projections in the small intestine that absorb nutrients are destroyed by gluten. This leads to malabsorption and nutritional deficiency. Symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, depression, and weight loss. The only treatment for celiac disease is to eliminate gluten from the diet.

Wheat allergy is another reason to avoid gluten. Symptoms of wheat allergy can include asthma, eczema, and anaphylaxis. Some people believe that a diet free of gluten can alleviate symptoms of autism. There have been few studies done, and there is no scientific proof that this diet is helpful.

Deficiencies in vitamins, fiber, and protein are fairly common in people following a gluten-free diet. For this reason, it is important to select foods that include a variety of these. All fresh fruits and vegetables are free of gluten.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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