Going gluten-free? Gluten is not always obvious on food labels, so you'll need to get up to speed on gluten's many disguises.
When Katie Falkenmeyer of Sherrill, N.Y., decided to go gluten-free, the learning curve in front of her was a little daunting. Figuring out which foods were really gluten-free wasn't easy. But after a few trips to the grocery store -- and with the support of her nutritionist -- identifying gluten on an ingredient list is now second nature.
"It took time -- and a lot of ingredient label-reading -- to figure out what foods were gluten-free," Falkenmeyer says.
You probably know that gluten -- a protein -- is in anything containing wheat, rye, or barley. But did you know it's also in some less obvious products, such as lunch meats or soy sauce?
Here's what to look for.
Gluten-Free Diet Slideshow
Some people go gluten-free because they have celiac disease, which damages the small intestine and makes it harder to absorb nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease can't tolerate gluten.
Others avoid gluten because they're sensitive to it, but don't have celiac disease.
"If someone has celiac disease or a gluten-sensitivity, the solution is pretty much black and white," says Daniel Leffler, MD, director of research at Boston's Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "They need to eliminate gluten from their diet totally in order to experience an improvement in their health."
Sticking to a gluten-free diet can be tricky -- but it's possible.
Checking the ingredient label for wheat, barley, and rye is just the beginning. Gluten also goes by other names, and some of them aren't that obvious.
"Reading the ingredients label on the foods you buy and knowing what to look for are the keys to identifying and avoiding gluten," says Shelley Case, RD, author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide.
Here are some of gluten's guises on ingredient labels, according to Case's book:
Barley (flakes, flour, pearl)
Breading and bread stuffing
Durum (type of wheat)
Farro/Faro (also known as spelt)
Hydrolyzed wheat protein
Kamut (a type of wheat)
Malt, malt extract, malt syrup, and malt flavoring
Matzoh, matzoh meal
Modified wheat starch
Oatmeal, oat bran, oat flour, and whole oats (unless they are from pure, uncontaminated oats)
Rye bread and flour
Seitan (A meat-like food derived from wheat gluten used in many vegetarian dishes)
Spelt (A type of wheat also known as farro or faro, dinkel)
These other ingredients may be less familiar to you, but they also contain gluten:
Atta (chapati flour)
Dinkel (also known as spelt, a type of wheat)
Einkorn (type of wheat)
Emmer (type of wheat)
Fu (a dried gluten product made from wheat and used in some Asian dishes)