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What Has Gluten in It? A Guide for a Gluten-Free Diet

What Has Gluten in It?

Gluten is in almost everything from wheat, grains, rye, beer, barley, and nutritional supplements to cosmetics. Despite the natural occurrence of gluten in most food supplies, you can also extract, concentrate and add it to other products to increase protein content, flavor, and texture.

Gluten contains a pliable quality, an ingredient that works as a binding agent in baked foods and bread to give them shape and a chewy texture. Although eating whole grains like wheat lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, there are concerns that it causes a health disorder known as celiac disease. Critics come after gluten, causing people to doubt its credibility as a healthy diet. But what exactly is gluten, and what foods contain it?

Key Takeaways

  • Foods made from grains, especially wheat, such as oats, bread, pasta, cereal, and pizza contain the highest amount of gluten.
  • You will also find gluten in wheat varieties and derivatives like spelt, durum, farina, farro, couscous, semolina, kamut, einkorn, wheat bran, wheat berries, bulgur, wheat starch, emmer, wheat germ, and graham flour.
  • Some gluten-free foods include maize, rice, potatoes, rice, most dairy products, meat, veggies, fruits, etc.

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What Is Gluten?

Gluten is the name of a protein found in certain grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten acts as a glue that holds, and it has an adhesive property that gives an elastic texture to most foods, maintaining their shape and giving them a chewy texture.

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Where Can You Find Gluten?

You can naturally find gluten in barley, wheat, rye, and Triticale (a cross hybrid of rye and wheat). You can also find it in processed foods like oats, bread, pasta, cereal, and pizza.

Where Can You Find Gluten? Source: Dreamstime

You will find gluten in whiskey since rye contains components used in fermentation. In addition, barley is also a component used to brew beer and manufacture stock feeds.

Related: What Cereals Are Gluten Free? From Oatmeal to Cornflakes

Types of Gluten

While Gluten is the term we use to define proteins found in many cereal grains, we can separate those in wheat into gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin makes the grain components fold and form a solid spherical shape, while glutenin forms an elongated rope-like shape.

Although barley and rye have a fraction of gliadin protein, the leading cause of adverse reactions in protein. They also have additional gluten types: Hordein in barley and Secalin in rye.

Foods That Contain Gluten

Foods made from grains, especially wheat, contain the highest amount of gluten. However, most processed food contains additives that may have wheat. Other naturally gluten-free foods may get contaminated by gluten.

The most common foods with gluten include:

Grains That Contain Gluten

Grains That Contain Gluten Examples of grain products
Wheat From varieties and derivatives such as spelt, durum, farina, farro, couscous, semolina, kamut, einkorn, wheat bran, wheat berries, bulgur, wheat starch, emmer, wheat germ, and graham flour.
Barley Types of barley include hulled barley. Hulless barley, barley flakes, pearl barley, and barley flour.
Rye Grain is used for flour, bread, and beer. You can also eat it whole: boiled rye berries or rolled, similar to rolled oats.
Triticale A cross hybrid between wheat and rye. Common in bran and refined flour. Other triticale products include sprouted grain, fermented bread dough, malt, baked dough, and cooked and dried pasta

Processed Foods That May Contain Gluten

Although Gluten is a natural component, most food ingredients contain extracts and concentrate extracted from gluten. Most processed foods that have wheat, rye, and barley contain gluten. Some of the processed foods that may have gluten include the following:

Processed foods Types of processed foods with gluten
Bread Rolls, white bread, buns, potato bread, bagels, biscuits, and flour tortillas
Pasta Spaghetti, macaroni, lasagne, fettuccine, gnocchi, dumplings, and ravioli,
Cereals All cereals contain wheat, like oats
Baked Goods Cakes, muffins, cookies, pies, doughnuts, pancakes, and waffles.
Beer Beer from malt and other liquors that have wheat additives in their ingredients.
Crackers Chips and pretzels
Gravy and soups Most soups and gravies are canned food with wheat extracts as a thickening agent. For powder and liquid soups and sauces, check labels for "gluten-free."

Foods That Are Naturally Gluten-free but May Be Contaminated

Gluten contamination happens when gluten-free food comes into contact with gluten. It can happen in several ways during cultivation, processing, packaging, and manufacturing. Unfortunately, foods like oats can mix with small crumbs of gluten and can be risky for gluten-intolerant people.

However, gluten contamination can occur during cultivation, especially in foods like rice and corn, which share the same method as rye and wheat. Also, during processing or manufacturing processes, certain foods can mix.

Related: How Long After Eating Gluten Do Symptoms Start?

Other Sources of Gluten

Most people are more cautious of gluten in food products, but you might find that certain non-food products have some forms of unseen gluten. Despite the claim by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordering gluten-free labeling standards for food products, they did not include other items that may contain gluten. Other ways to contact gluten are through non-food items such as medications, cosmetics, and contamination.

Non-food Items That May Contain Gluten

Some non-food items that may have gluten are as follows:

Non-food items with gluten Description and examples
Medications Some OTC medications containing gluten include Advil, antibiotics, blood pressure medications like amlodipine, cholesterol, and birth control pills. You can also find gluten in vitamin supplements used as a binding agent.
Cosmetics Products such as lip balms, lotions, and moisturizers
Playdough Playdough products contain a starch-based binder, salt, lubricant, a retrogradation inhibitor, surfactant, hardener, preservative, humectant, color, and fragrance, some of which have gluten

Cross-contamination in Food Preparation

Cross-contamination happens when a gluten-free food product comes into contact with food items containing gluten. It can be fatal to people with celiac disease despite the amount of gluten content. Cross-contamination usually happens in households during food preparation.

The most common places for cross-contamination to happen include:

  • Using the same utensils, cutting boards, and toasters while handling both gluten and gluten-free products
  • Shared utensils like food containers, which contain products like mayonnaise, butter, or peanut butter
  • At restaurants where they handle different foods like pizzas, backed foods, and wheat in general
  • At bakeries
  • In the oat factories, during processing

Related: How Long Does Gluten Stay in Your System?

Gluten-free Alternatives

Here are some beneficial gluten-free grains

Grain type Products
Quinoa Quinoa flour that makes pancakes, tortillas, or quick bread. Also, crusts and casseroles
Buckwheat Has gluten-free antioxidants and reduces heart disease
Sorghum Sorghum has high compounds that help reduce inflammation and blood sugar levels. Examples of sorghum products are the cereal grain, sorghum flour, and sorghum syrup
Corn Corn or maize is the most common gluten-free cereal grain around the world. You can boil, grill, or roast corn. You can add it to salads, soups, or casseroles.
Teff In gluten-free baking, try to substitute wheat flour for teff flour. Also, mix teff with chili to make a natural thickening for dishes
Amaranth seeds The seeds are a good substitute for wheat since they are gluten-free.

Gluten-free Processed Foods

Gluten-free Processed Foods

Although Gluten is found in wheat, some processed food products fit a gluten-free diet. Such food includes

Gluten-free Processed Foods Examples
Bread Bread made by gluten-free starch from potatoes, rice, corn, tapioca, and pea.
Pasta Gluten-free pasta from different grains, like millet, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, amaranth seeds, and rice.Also, noodles from fiber extracts from the roots of a konjac plant called glucomannan.
Cereals include maize, millet, rice, sorghum, and teff
Baked goods Baked food from rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch ingredients.
Beer Beer is made from sorghum, millet, and teff instead of barley and wheat.

Cooking and Baking Tips for Gluten-free Diets

When cooking gluten-free food, it is essential to do the following:

  • Use whole-grain and fresh ingredients
  • Avoid ready ingredients such as gravy, soups, seasonings, bottled sauces, condiments, and salad dressings.
  • Use thickening agents such as xanthan or guar gums in your baking.
  • Avoid other gluten-related diets, such as graham flour, farina, bulgur, spelt, and semolina. Try adding flavors like vanilla to your baking.

What Is Gluten Intolerance?

Gluten intolerance is an adverse reaction to gluten proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. The reaction can cause certain disorders such as celiac disease, Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), and wheat allergy. Some gluten-intolerance symptoms include bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, and numbness.

Related: What Liquors Are Gluten-free? A Detailed Guide

What Has Gluten in It? FAQs

Q: Why Is Gluten Bad?

A: Gluten can cause a severe autoimmune reaction in some people. An autoimmune reaction to gluten is known as celiac disease, which damages the small intestine.

Q: What Foods Do Not Contain Gluten?

A: Some gluten-free foods include potatoes, rice, cereals, fruits, and vegetables like cauliflower. In addition, dairy products are 100 percent gluten-free. However, some people may add Gluten to the cheese during manufacturing.

Q: What Consists of a Gluten-free Diet?

A: A gluten-free diet does not have foods that contain gluten, a protein found in several grains. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and processed gluten-free foods are ideal for a Gluten free diet.

Q: What are Surprising Foods With Gluten?

A: Watch out for these foods with gluten:

  • Brown rice syrup
  • Candy
  • French fries
  • Hotdog, sausage, and salami
  • Imitation fish
  • Self-basting turkey
  • Deli meats
  • Flavored teas and coffees

Q: Do Potatoes Have Gluten?

A: No, potatoes do not contain gluten. They are gluten-free.

Q: Does Rice Have Gluten?

A: Rice is naturally gluten-free, however, it is more likely to come into contact with wheat, barley, and rye during the cultivation, harvesting, and production process.

Q: Does Cheese Have Gluten?

A: Natural cheese is usually gluten-free. However, some manufacturers add gluten during the manufacturing process. Therefore, it is advisable to check the labeling before you purchase.

Q: Does Oatmeal Have Gluten?

A: Pure oats are gluten-free. However oats are likely to be contaminated during packaging, hence check gluten-free labeling.

Q: Does Milk Have Gluten?

A: Most dairy products, such as cheese, butter, and milk are naturally gluten-free.

Related: What Breads Are Gluten-free? A Detailed Guide


Avoiding gluten can be tricky at first, and it's more important to learn and identify the most common sources of gluten. Staying away from most of the foods above and substituting them with gluten-free foods can help you refrain from gluten.

All in all, some gluten in whole grains is good for glute-tolerant people. The main way to be careful is to check ingredients when purchasing packed foods. In addition, having naturally Gluten-free foods in your diet is crucial.