What is Gluten?

A lot of people I explain to I’m gluten-free or allergic to wheat have no idea what gluten is. It’s not a “lifestyle” choice, it’s a allergic reaction choice, haha. So I’ll just send them to here, or to Google to explain. I do not have Celiacs but I do have Eosinophilic Esophagitis which has made my body highly allergic to gluten as well.

What is Gluten?

according to: https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/glutenfreediet/what-is-gluten/

 Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.
The Big 3: Wheat, Barley, RyeWheat is commonly found in:

  • breads
  • baked goods
  • soups
  • pasta
  • cereals
  • sauces
  • salad dressings
  • roux

Barley is commonly found in:

  • malt
  • food coloring
  • soups
  • malt vinegar
  • beer

Rye is commonly found in:

  • rye bread, such as pumpernickel
  • rye beer
  • cereals

What does Gluten do?


Gluten is the “glue” that holds bread, pasta and cake together. It gives elasticity, a chewy texture and it helps food keep its shape. When the yeast in baked goods releases gasses, gluten creates the elastic net that “traps” them, and allows the dough to rise.index


Because of its desired qualities gluten is often also added to baked goods to make them look and taste even “greater”.

Gluten is widely used as additives in other food items, as well as in cosmetics, conditioners and medication.

Where is Gluten found?


Gluten naturally occurs in grains, and the harmful versions are found in wheat, barley and rye (and possibly oats).

Gluten can be added to foods, either in an obvious or in a “hidden” manner.

The easy ones to detect are the likes of “wheat starch”, “barley malt” or “wheat bran”. They are simple enough to understand because they contain the names of the grains we know to avoid.

Then there’s the seemingly innocent ingredients like “caramel colouring” and “baking powder”, that may surprise you.

The confusion starts when words like “Dextrines”, “Emulsifiers” and “Amp-Isostearoyl Hydrolyzed” turn up on the labelling..


Which foods don’t contain Gluten?


Many, many foods, in fact, most foods (which you will soon discover) don’t contain any gluten and are perfectly safe! It takes a while to learn what’s what, and I feel like I can eat a million more food items now than when I was first diagnosed. Naturally it was always the same, but I know more now and the world “opens up” as I learn.eat-more-vegetables-1

Naturally gluten free is always the best way to go. A good place to start is vegetables and fruits, unprocessed meats, seafood and poultry, as well as carbs like potatoes, corn and rice. As a rule, if it hasn’t been spiced, mixed or blended, you can eat it. Always wash or peel as some items may at some point have touched gluten-containing foods. Better safe than sorry.

There are many “specialty” grains and flours that are naturally gluten-free, such as buckwheat (which isn’t a wheat at all!), tapioca, amaranth, arrowroot, millet, quinoa, sorghum, gram flour, almond flour and soy flour. The list goes on and on, and learning to use these “new” grains can be a lot of fun. A list of gluten-free grains can be found here, and a list and glossary of gluten-free flours can be found here.


What are the rules for Gluten Free labeling?


Rules about gluten labeling differ from country to country, and it is important that you familiarize yourself with what applies to you.

In Europe and the US, food containing up to 20 parts per million of gluten may be labeled gluten free. In Australia and New Zealand, food labeled gluten-free cannot contain any detectable gluten or oats. In addition, AUS and NZ have a bracket for “low gluten” which allows for up to 200 ppm of gluten. Be aware of the “low gluten” foods as they are not suitable for coeliacs. GFCO_logo

Parts Per Million (ppm) explains the quantity of gluten allowed. 1 ppm equals 1mg per liter or 1 mg per kg. This means that food containing 20ppm of gluten has 0,002% gluten content. Naturally, if you eat large amounts of foods containing “very little gluten”, eventually it will add up and you are in fact eating gluten.

Some products are debatable in this context. One of them is glucose syrup made from wheat. In Europe this is considered to be safe for coeliacs, yet down-under it is not. More on the discussion on differences in gluten labeling here.




Special thanks to site
Awesome collection of gluten-free facts and blog, check it out.


  • Yeah becoming gluten free was hard to do at first, but after a few months go by you get use to the labels and brands and what to shop for!

    Great read, keep it up!

  • Thank you! yea I totally understand it was a total shock at first being 23 but yea now I’m used to it… It’s like going to Tokyo for the first time! *though I have not been yet*

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