I’ve been trying to write about our new Gluten-Free Recipes collection, but gluten is complicated, and I’ve been going cross-eyed while researching it. (My heart goes out to all of you with celiac!) Wheat, rye and barley are bad, but corn, rice and quinoa are fine. Obviously, pasta and breads and any sort of flour are out unless labeled gluten-free, and most people with a gluten-intolerance are well-versed in which foods to avoid. However, most of us who may occasionally have to cook for those on a gluten-free diet are not quite as educated.
When our expert determined which of our existing recipes do fall under that gluten-free category, she also provided me with this list of some surprising foods that may contain gluten:
- Chicken or vegetable broth
- Soy sauce
- Apple cider vinegar
- Alcohol (any, as it may be wheat-based)
- Mayonnaise (some brands can’t guarantee the source ingredients, such as vinegar, are gluten-free; also, see contamination note on mustard below)
- Dijon mustard (very commonly contaminated by bread crumbs from knife; also, see note on mayo above)
- Ice cream (but homemade is OK)
- Worcestershire sauce
- Garlic powder and most seasoning mixes (could contain flour or MSG)
- Envelopes (I realize this isn’t a food, but I was shocked to find out that the adhesive on envelopes contains gluten!)
In fact, many condiments, like the Dijon mustard and mayo above, can be contaminated by a knife, and just one tiny bread crumb can trigger a reaction for those with gluten sensitivities. However, using squeeze bottles cuts down on the chance of contamination.
Of course, many specific brands of these products do not contain gluten; if you’re unsure, check the label or the product’s website.
And now, a disclaimer: I’m not advocating a gluten-free diet if you’re just looking for a new, healthy way of eating. Gluten-free diets are required for people with celiac disease or other intolerances to gluten. According to the Mayo Clinic, many grains are enriched with nutrients, including iron and calcium, so you may have to supplement your diet with these nutrients. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center also advises against going gluten-free, because whole grains are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals – all of which protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer. Not to mention some of the foods manufactured to be gluten-free are “higher in fat, sugar and total calories than the versions with gluten,” according to a November 2011 report by the National Health Institute (PDF).
But for those who do need to follow a gluten-free diet – or are cooking for someone who does – I hope this list provides a little bit of insight. I know I was surprised by about seven out of 10 of those items, but I’m sure we missed a few. Are there any other surprising foods containing gluten that should be mentioned?