What Is Gluten-Free Cereal?

J. Beam

Gluten-free cereal is cereal without gluten, a particular protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is made from grains that do not contain gluten, such as corn or rice, and do not have any additives containing gluten. There are many varieties of gluten-free cereal. Some are mass produced by large companies while others are produced by smaller manufacturers of organic and whole food products.

Whole oats.  Pure oats are technically a gluten-free food, but they are often contaminated with wheat products.
Whole oats. Pure oats are technically a gluten-free food, but they are often contaminated with wheat products.

Gluten-free cereal can be eaten by anyone, but is a particularly useful staple in the gluten-free diet. People with Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, wheat allergies, and other conditions may not have the ability to digest gluten, which can exacerbate various health conditions and cause diarrhea, upset stomach and other symptoms. In many cases, eliminating gluten from the diet will alleviate the symptoms associated with gluten intolerance.

Gluten-free cereals cannot contain wheat flour.
Gluten-free cereals cannot contain wheat flour.

In the United States, an official food product label bearing the words “this product is certified gluten free” may appear on food products that have undergone specific manufacturing processes and inspection. A manufacturer of food products such as cereal may apply for this label, but its absence does not necessarily mean that the product contains gluten. The presence of such a food label can help shoppers quickly sort out which products are free of gluten, making shopping for the restricted diet easier.

Even before the USDA issued label, some food products, including cereal, were already gluten-free, such as many puffed rice cereals. The store brand equivalent of these cereals may also be gluten-free, but it is important to check the product labels. Even cereals made from corn, a grain that is inherently gluten-free, may still contain gluten. If a cereal product contains wheat, dextrin, malted barley or malted vinegar, it is not a gluten-free cereal. Similarly, if a product lists modified food starch, but does not specify the source of the starch, it may contain gluten.

When shopping for gluten-free cereal, look for products that contain a label specifying it is gluten free or read the ingredients label. If you are not sure if your favorite cereal is gluten free, call the company and ask. There is often a toll-free number listed on the packaging. One cereal grain in particular that has caused confusion and controversy in the gluten-free debate is oats. Though most scientists agree that oats themselves do not contain gluten, the confusion comes from cross contamination, whether during planting, harvesting, or processing.

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