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Hidden Sources of Gluten

How to recognize gluten that's not obvious on the label.
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WebMD Feature

Going gluten-free? You'll need a little know-how to figure out which foods you need to avoid.

You probably know that gluten -- a protein -- is in anything made from wheat, rye, or barley. But did you know it's also in some less obvious products, such as lunch meats and soy sauce?

Here's what to look for.

Gluten Ingredients

First, check the ingredient label for wheat, barley, and rye.

Next, look for some of the other things you might see on an ingredients label that signal gluten.

"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.

Case's book lists these items:

  • Barley (flakes, flour, pearl)
  • Breading, bread stuffing
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Bulgur
  • Durum (type of wheat)
  • Farro/faro (also known as spelt or dinkel)
  • Graham flour
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein 
  • Kamut (type of wheat)
  • Malt, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring
  • Malt vinegar
  • Malted milk
  • Matzo, matzo meal
  • Modified wheat starch
  • Oatmeal, oat bran, oat flour, 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)
  • Semolina
  • Spelt (type of wheat also known as farro, faro, or dinkel)
  • Triticale
  • Wheat bran
  • Wheat flour
  • Wheat germ
  • Wheat starch

These other ingredients may be less familiar to you, but they also contain gluten:

  • Atta (chapati flour)
  • Einkorn (type of wheat)
  • Emmer (type of wheat)
  • Farina
  • Fu (a dried gluten product made from wheat and used in some Asian dishes)

Gluten Foods

Double-check the ingredients label on these items, as they're possible sources of gluten:

  • Beer, ale, lager
  • Breads
  • Broth, soup, soup bases
  • Cereals
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Some chocolates, some chocolate bars, licorice
  • Flavored coffees and teas
  • Imitation bacon bits, imitation seafoods
  • Medications (check with your pharmacist)
  • Pastas 
  • Processed foods
  • Salad dressings
  • Sausages, hot dogs, deli meats
  • Sauces, marinades, gravies
  • Seasonings
  • Soy sauce

Gluten-free foods have become much more common, so you can probably find a version that does work for you. Even communion wafers now come in gluten-free versions.

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