Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, can damage the intestines of people who suffer from celiac disease, a type of auto-immune disorder. People who have a wheat allergy may suffer a reaction when they eat foods with gluten as well. While you may think that gluten is only in foods that specifically contain wheat or other grains, it’s often added to a number of other foods. If you don’t keep an eye out, you may find gluten hiding in your pantry.
Grains With Gluten
A number of grain products may contain gluten. Even though oats don’t contain gluten in and of themselves, they can become contaminated with it during processing, according to the Mayo Clinic. Unless you find a package of oatmeal specifically labeled “gluten-free,” it is best to leave it on the shelf. You’re also likely to find gluten in pastas, unless they are made of a gluten-free flour and in some beers. Grains that are a type of wheat, such as triticale, farina and spelt, also contain gluten.
Gluten hides in a number of processed foods, such as salad dressings and marinades. It’s a common ingredient in soy sauce, since the soy is fermented on wheat, and in gravy, since wheat flour thickens the sauce. You may also find gluten in lunch meats or in vegetarian meat substitutes, since the protein is often used to replace meat protein. It can hide in some candies as well as soups.
A number of food additives come from wheat and contain gluten. Starch and dextrin are products that thicken and stabilize a number of foods, from spice blends to sauces to candy. Malt flavoring comes from barley and contains gluten. Natural or artificial flavorings can also contain gluten, especially if they come from grain alcohol extracts or barley malt, according to Children’s Hospital Boston. Other additives that can contain gluten include monoglycerides, diglycerides, malt vinegar and brown rice syrup.
Check the Label
The best way to find out if a food contains gluten is to give the label a quick scan, looking for any suspicious additives or wheat, rye and barley ingredients. Foods that have wheat starch or wheat dextrin must specify that wheat is the source, according to Children’s Hospital Boston. You should also keep an eye out for a label that notes the food was prepared in a factory that also handles wheat ingredients. You may want to only purchase foods that specifically state they are gluten-free to avoid any potential problems.
Gluten not only hides in foods, it can hide in items you use on your body and in your mouth, such as toothpaste, medications and vitamin supplements. It’s sometimes added to lipsticks, according to the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. Play-Doh also contains gluten. Keep an eye on a child who is gluten intolerant if he plays with Play-Doh or avoid giving him the product.