Hidden Gluten Ingredients

Shopping for gluten free has become much easier in recent years. Many packages promote their status with splashy labels of “GF” or even “certified gluten free”.

gfBut what about the packages that don’t have those handy words printed on them? Do you just read the ingredient list and look for the word ‘gluten’? Or maybe check to see if it says ‘wheat’? If you must avoid gluten, neither of those words is enough.

Since gluten is found in barley, wheat and rye, those words are great starting points, but gluten is often hiding out in the ingredients list under other names. It’s hiding in there and your job is to identify it and avoid it.

Malt flavoring? It comes from barley, doh! Seiten? Sure, it’s vegetarian – but it’s got wheat!

Now here’s the really tricky stuff: these things don’t even sound like foods, much less like gluten. Hydrolyzed plant protein? It can be derived from a gluten-containing plant. Dextrin? Unless it’s labeled gluten free, it might come from wheat. Triticum vulgare germ extract? It’s basically wheat germ oil.

Other key words to be wary of include filler, coating, natural flavoring, natural coloring, binding, starch and stabilizer. These can all contain gluten, unless specifically labeled otherwise.

Foods that often seem fine at first glance, but are not upon closer inspection include soy sauce (but not tamari), teriyaki sauce, vegetable broths and bouillon.

There are a number of good lists online of “hidden gluten”, but I’ve found celiac.com to be one of the most extensive. They have an ‘unsafe ingredients’ list as well as a ‘safe ingredients’ list. I recommend bookmarking them on your smart phone so that you can call them up while you’re shopping. When I changed to a gluten free diet I relied on these lists until I became familiar with some of the more common terms.

Finally, note that although oats are inherently gluten free, sensitive individuals may experience trouble eating them. Cross-contamination with gluten during the growing, transporting, processing or packaging of oats can occur, so always look for the gluten free label if you buy oats. Also, people who can’t eat gluten frequently have problems with oats regardless of their gluten free status.

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