I bet you didn’t realize it, but every grocery store in every town contains a gluten free section. It’s called the produce section. Seriously. The safest and easiest bet for having a gluten free diet is to get back to basics. Avoid processed and prepared foods. Eat “real foods” not foods with ingredient lists. Vegetables and unprocessed meats are naturally gluten free and risk of cross-contamination with gluten is extremely minimal. The more processing and the more handling, even naturally gluten free foods go through, the larger the risk of cross-contamination with gluten. But for those of you refusing to live the simple life and crave a little danger, this article explains what grains and starches are naturally gluten free, which ones aren’t and which ingredients on ingredient labels should always be avoided.
What Grains and Starches are Naturally Gluten Free:
Amaranth, arrowroot, all beans (garbanzo, fava, soy, etc.), buckwheat (isn’t related to wheat), Montina (Indian rice grass), all nuts and seeds, potato, quinoa, rice, sorghum, tapioca, teff and wild rice (grass) are gluten free.
I don’t say this to scare you and make this transition even more difficult but just to keep you aware. As you first go gluten free, its often easiest to stick to the basics until you know better what you are doing and then start sourcing gluten free grains and starches. You also might want to worry about cross-contamination later and to start with just remove all of the gluten containing ingredients and grains and after you have made the transition become more strict about cross-contamination. It’s all a process and the easier you can make it on yourself, the better. The most important thing is to take the first step and remove what follows…
Grains with gluten – wheat, barley, spelt, kamut, farro, durum, semolina, bulgur, cous cous, rye, triticale (a rye/wheat hybrid) and TVP (texturized vegetable protein).
Oats are inherently gluten-free, but are almost always contaminated with wheat or other glutinous grains during growing and/or processing. Cream Hill Estates, Gluten Free Oats and Bob’s Red Mill offer pure, uncontaminated, gluten-free oats. McCann’s Irish Oats are processed in a facility that processes only oats. The protein in oats is similar to a protein in wheat and so some people are sensitive to even gluten free oats–pay attention to how your body, mind and emotions respond to consuming it to decide for yourself. When you first remove gluten from your diet, it is best to also remove oats (even those labeled gluten free) to give your digestion a break, let your body’s immune system ramp back down, allow inflammatory processes to lessen and then try certified gluten free oats.
Read labels on packaged foods, they often contain gluten contamination, especially: flavored prepackaged rice or pasta, tomato and spaghetti sauces, canned soups, vegetable cooking sprays, flavored instant coffees and teas, some veined cheeses such as roquefort and bleu cheese, chow mein noodles, artificial coffee creamer, bouillon cubes or powder, gravy and sauce mixes, imitation seafood products, ground spice mixes, chewing gum (can be dusted with wheat starch), communion wafers, breading, panko, candy (especially licorice and some chocolates), croutons, imitation bacon, marinades, processed lunch meats, sauces, self-basting poultry, soy sauce, stuffing/dressing, thickeners (roux). Pasta is usually from wheat, spelt or semolina flour which all contain gluten. You can find gluten free pastas made from rice flour and quinoa. My favorites include Tinkyada (look for the bunny on the packages), Lundberg and Annie Chun’s Noodles (pad thai and maifun noodles in Asian section instead of Italian).
Ingredients with tricky names may or may not be from gluten containing grains: natural or artificial flavorings, fillers, whey protein concentrate, whey sodium caseinate, white vinegar or white grain vinegar, rice malt (contains barley or Koji), rice syrup (some brands contain barley enzymes), dextrin, malt, maltodextrin, hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP), hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) unless from soy or corn, modified [food] starch (unless from arrowroot, corn, potato, tapioca or maize), mustard powder (may contain gluten), monosodium glutamate (MSG), vegetable gum (unless from carob bean, locust bean, cellulose, guar gum, gum Arabic, gum aracia, gum tragacanth, xantham gum, or vegetable starch) and gelatinized starch. If the label doesn’t say gluten free and contains any of the above ingredients than don’t eat it.
If an ingredient includes these words, a glutinous grain has likely been utilized: stabilizer, starch, flavoring, emulsifier, hydrolyzed and plant protein.
Alcohol: scotch, whiskey and most beers come from barley or wheat. There are beers made from rice or sorghum that are labeled as gluten-free. Distillation processes should remove all of the gluten, but many gluten intolerant folks still react to distilled alcohols and vinegars because of cross-contamination in the plant or incomplete distillation processes.
Nonfood items containing gluten that are ingested, even in minimal amounts can still cause a reaction, such as: lip stick, chapstick, lip balm, glue on stamps and envelopes, toothpaste, mouthwash, prescription drugs, supplements (vitamins, minerals), tinctures, homeopathic remedies, etc. Some people have an allergic reaction to wheat or gluten and also react to products that are absorbed into the skins, such as sunscreen, laundry detergents, soaps and shampoos,cosmetics, lotions and creams. So read labels or look for “gluten free” delineation.
Yes… I know that is a lot to take in. So, start simple and eat simple. Worry about cross-contamination after you are comfortable removing gluten containing grains from your diet. If you have questions about what is safe and what isn’t, post them below and I’ll answer or do my best to get you an answer quickly.