With so much talk about gluten buzzing around I often get asked the questions, what is gluten and where is it found? Here are answers to both:
What is Gluten?
The answer is simple, but not so simple. Gluten is a protein found in some grains. This protein is made of protein components called glutenin and gliadin. Over the past several decades manipulation of the predominant grain that gluten is found, wheat, has increased the size of the protein molecule. This larger protein molecule size has proven itself difficult for the human body to digest.
Gluten is found a variety of foods. Some foods have gluten directly from the source (such as wheat crackers) or gluten can be used as an additive to increase otherwise low protein foods or to provide the elasticity, rise, and texture of a given food. Here are some gluten sources:
- wheat-durum, semolina, orzo, panko, couscous, farina, farro, eikorn, emmer
- oats-just to be clear, oats themselves do not necessarily have gluten in them, however they are often processed in a facility that contains gluten and can get cross contaminated with gluten; yet there is a such thing as gluten-free oats
Foods made with grains:
Although some of these foods can be made from non-glutenous grains, the traditional foods are made from gluten.
- bread-sandwich bread, biscuits, pancakes, pita, muffins, English muffins, bagels, hamburger or hotdog buns
Hidden sources of gluten:
In these sources of gluten it may not be identifiable unless you read the ingredient list. Some of these are unsuspecting and may or may not contain gluten, but here are some ways gluten can be sneak into your foods.
- texturized or hydrolyzed vegetable protein (may also contain soy or corn)
- barley malt
- starch-if it doesn’t say cornstarch it may contain gluten
- ice cream or ice cream cones often contain gluten stabilizers
- cakes and cookies
- lunch meats, hot dogs, sausages
- processed cheese or dairy
- curry powder
- white pepper
- dry seasoning & gravy mixes
- chewing gum
- pie fillings
- baked beans
- baking powders
- salad dressings
- sandwich spread
- instant coffee
- bread crumbs
- alcoholic beverages-most alcohols are made from grains
- processed dips
You can see the many ways gluten has been able to sneak into our foods. On the flip side, in August 2013 the FDA issued standards for gluten-free claims. The FDA has set a gluten limit of less than 20 parts per million (ppm) for foods that carry the label “gluten-free,” “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” or “without gluten.” Whether a food is manufactured to be free of gluten or by naturally gluten free, it may bear a gluten-free labeling claim. Despite the inclination to assume these are health foods, they may not necessarily be any healthier than their counterparts, however they do not have gluten in them.