Excuse me? Is there gluten in this?
Most people know that gluten is found in some of the world’s most delicious foods – I’m looking at you pizza, churros, cake, pastry, naan bread… You get the idea.
What many people don’t realise is that gluten is also hidden in a number of unexpected foods. Yes, as if the disaster of being coeliac wasn’t bad enough, I’ve now discovered that gluten appears in some of the world’s most “innocent” foods.
I decided to chat to Adelaide based dietician, Nick Wray, to find out what the deal is with some of these seemingly safe foods and more importantly, to figure out how I can keep chocolate as part of my diet.
Let’s start with arguably the most important ingredient. A staple in any sane person’s diet, chocolate is at the centre of Easter and it’s found in cake, ice cream and biscuits, among other things.
What you might not know is that chocolate can also contain gluten. For those with gluten intolerances chocolate can be okay, but coeliacs should probably stick to gluten-free labelled chocolate, Nick said.
“Usually the ingredients in chocolate are gluten free ingredients but manufacturers may process them on equipment that also processes gluten containing products so there is a definite cross contamination risk.”
Soy sauce is a frequently surprisingly source of gluten. Traditionally made by fermenting wheat and soybeans, there has been confusion about whether this process can remove the gluten protein. Nick said this is not the case.
But don’t worry; it’s not all bad news! “Now there are true gluten free soy sauces – like Kikkoman – that use rice instead of wheat so are truly GF and labelled so. Look for them in the supermarket!” Nick said.
Those more familiar with gluten intolerances will know this one, but it comes as a surprise to many. Nick explains that beer is made from malted barley or wheat – both of which contain gluten – so it’s rarely gluten free. And yes, this does include beer battered fries.
But we live in a magical time, where “going gluten free” is one of the more popular trends and gluten free products abound. This includes beer.
“Gluten free beers exist and usually use corn, rice or sorghum as the grain in the fermentation process,” said Nick.
Cheese is made from milk, so it should be safe? Right? Wrong! Well not blue cheese anyway… The mould that makes blue cheese so universally controversial can come from bread or other gluten-containing cultures, Nick explained.
So is life truly not worth living anymore? No, Nick said – where there’s a will, there’s a way. “Some blue cheeses use non-gluten containing cultures so are okay but again, check for labelling and mentions of what culture was used,” he said.
Pickled vegetables, including pickled onions and other items in jars, can also be a sneaky source of gluten.
While you might not generally associate onions with gluten, if they have been pickled in malt vinegar – basically, liquid gluten – they are NSFC (not safe for coeliacs)!
Again, the best way to make sure you’re not consuming accidental gluten is to always read the label.
While it’s not food, the products you use on your skin can also contain gluten.
I found this out when, after three weeks of eating gluten free, my face and neck broke out in a rash and a colleague suggested, perhaps there was gluten in one of my cosmetics?
When I ask Nick about this, he assures me – gluten is not absorbed through the skin. “The only time it can be a problem is if you swallow some of the gluten such as using a lipstick, mouthwash or toothpaste that may contain gluten. So gluten free cosmetics are generally not necessary.”
So my weird rash remains a mystery, but at least I don’t have to replace all my skincare products…
Again, this not a food – and if it is you probably need to revisit the food pyramid – but who knew the adhesive on envelopes contained gluten? Well apparently it does.
Nick’s advice on this one is simple – “If you don’t lick it you can’t ingest it, hence it shouldn’t be a problem. Best to buy envelopes that self adhere!”