5 Sneaky Sources of Gluten in Common Foods

by | Updated: June 1st, 2018 | Read time: 3 minutes

Those of us trying to avoid gluten will quickly discover how sneaky some of the sources of these proteins are in our diet.

Although common in foods like whole wheat pasta, breads and baked goods, gluten can also be found in a variety of other, not-so-obvious foods.

Woman Pushing Away Plate of Gluten-Containing Foods | Vitacost.com/Blog

Before we jump into the hidden sources of gluten, let’s break down what this compound is.

Gluten is a family of proteins found in barley, wheat, rye, malt and oats. Fun fact: Gluten doesn’t occur naturally in oats but can occur artificially due to cross-contamination.

Those with celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder triggered by the consumption of gluten-containing products) shouldn’t consume these proteins in order to avoid chronic diarrhea, bloating, cramping and nutrient malabsorption that can occur.

For those who experience non-celiac gluten sensitivity (a condition where the consumption of gluten causes symptoms like headache, fatigue or gastrointestinal issues but an immune response doesn’t occur) a gluten-free diet is also recommended.

Although avoiding barley, wheat, malt, oats and rye may seem easy, it can be quite difficult due to how many products contain these ingredients.

Below are some of the most common sources of gluten, found in places you may not expect when trying to live a gluten-free lifestyle:

1. Dried fruits

Dried fruits are naturally gluten-free, but processing can make these an issue. Since these foods can share equipment with foods that contain gluten, cross-contamination can occur. For your dried fruit picks, opt for those that are labeled gluten-free for peace of mind.

2. Salad dressings

Salad dressings can be another source of gluten in the diet because of the thickeners used to give dressings their desired consistency. It is not uncommon to see other ingredients in these picks to be sourced from barley and rye. Gluten can also be an issue in Asian dressings where soy sauce is used.

3. Brown rice syrup

Although touted as a staple for clean eating in any whole-foods kitchen, this pick can be a hidden source of gluten. Even though these products are made from brown rice (which is gluten-free) processing it with barley enzymes strips it of its gluten-free title.

4. Pharmaceuticals & supplements

When it comes to medications and supplements, some may believe that gluten won’t be an issue. But think again. These products may contain other ingredients that work as fillers. Contacting the manufacturer of the supplements you use and speaking to your pharmacist about the gluten-status of your products is the best way to find the right gluten-free supplements and medications for you.

5. Miso & Japanese soba noodles

Like soy sauce, miso and soba noodles are stables of Asian cuisine that are sources of gluten in the diet. Miso (the base of marinades and miso soup) may be mixed with barley or wheat that has been fermented. Soba noodles may be made of buckwheat flour, which is a gluten-free grain, but some brands are made with wheat flour, making it an issue. Again, being mindful and looking for a gluten-free label would be ideal for these picks. 

In addition to knowing some of the more common sources of gluten hidden in our diet, here are some other tips to be mindful of when following a gluten-free lifestyle:

  • Focus on fresh foods as often as possible to limit your intake and exposure to gluten. Ex: Choose fresh cherries over dried.
  • Don’t load up on processed gluten-free baked goods as they can still be full of sugar and other undesirable ingredients. Ex: Experiment in the kitchen with your own gluten-free recipes like this coconut banana bread, which also happens to be egg- and dairy-free!
  • Learn some of the common names for gluten-containing grains that you can find on food labels. Ex: Graham, durum, semolina, udon, spelt and wheat berries are all different forms of wheat.