Foods Containing Gluten: What They Are, How To Identify Them And Alternatives

We analyze which foods contain gluten, show you how to identify them, and give you alternatives in cases of celiac disease and intolerance so that you can enjoy the best of food without risks.

Although it may seem like a simple topic, today we are going to talk about foods with gluten, how to identify them, and what alternatives we can find when it comes to equipping our kitchens. And while in some cases identifying gluten-free cereals, or flour, is our daily bread, never better said, on other occasions we will get surprises, both for good and for bad, when it comes to cooking. Therefore, we will talk about some alternatives, and their corresponding recipes, that will help us improve the quality of what we put on the table.

What is gluten?

We call gluten a group of proteins found in certain cereals. These are mainly found in wheat, barley, and rye. These proteins are responsible for the elasticity of dough and the fluffy texture of many baked goods.

Despite its protein nature, it must be made clear that it does not provide nutritional benefits since it is not assimilated. In fact, as we know, its presence in food can be problematic for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, causing adverse reactions in their system, starting with the digestive system and extending the damage to other organs.

What foods contain gluten?

Gluten is found in many common foods, especially those containing wheat flour, such as bread, pizza doughs, pastries, pasta, and cereals. In addition, other grains such as barley, rye, and, in some cases, oats ( if not certified gluten-free) also contain this substance.

We can even find gluten in foods such as ice cream, cheese or yogurt, due to the ingredients used to make them. By the way, we can also find some foods that do not naturally contain gluten, such as rice or quinoa, contaminated with gluten during their preparation. Therefore, we must be careful when choosing foods, even when, a priori, they should not contain gluten.

As a general rule, gluten is a very common component in processed foods, since the ingredients that provide it are cheap, convenient, and help improve palatability.

How to know if a food has gluten

How to identify foods with gluten? Given that gluten can come from a secondary ingredient (a thickener, for example), it is not that simple. In fact, this has been one of the main battles within the celiac and gluten-intolerant groups in recent years. It is a battle that has been won, sometimes with excessive enthusiasm, in certain supermarkets.

The point is that, first of all, to identify a gluten-free food we must refer to the label that specifies it as such. This gives us the assurance that it has been certified as free of this substance. Secondly, if it does not specify it, we can look at the ingredients. This is especially important in the case of processed foods. If we find any of the following ingredients mentioned, we will know that it contains gluten:

  • E-1400 Dextrins
  • E-1404 Oxidized starch
  • E-1405 Enzymatic Starch
  • E-1410 Monostarch phosphate
  • E-1412 Distarch phosphate
  • E-1413 Phosphated starch phosphate
  • E-1414 Acetylated starch phosphate
  • E-1420 Acetylated starch
  • E-1422 Acetylated distarch adipate
  • E-1440 Hydroxypropyl starch
  • E-1442 Hydroxypropyl distarch phosphate
  • E-1450 Octenyl starch succinate
  • Starch, starches, hydrolyzed protein
  • Vegetal protein
  • Malt or malt extract, malt syrup
  • Semolina or modified starches

In addition to this, you also have to pay attention to whether it contains wheat, barley, flour, refined flour, cereal flour, cereals, etc. If we want to be 100% sure, the only option is to go for foods certified as gluten-free , with their seal, but without being paranoid: milk, salt, bottled water… do not contain gluten and do not need the seal to be practically sure that they are not contaminated.

What is celiac disease and what is gluten intolerance?

Celiac disease, also known as coeliac disease, is an autoimmune disease. In other words, it is our own immune system that attacks our cells that have absorbed gluten, roughly speaking. Celiac disease affects the small intestine of genetically predisposed people, who, when they consume gluten, receive an attack from their system on the intestinal villi. These are the ones in charge of absorbing nutrients, which causes a nutritional problem as well as diarrhea and other problems. What’s more, this can progress in such a way that the immune system attacks other organs where it detects that there is a possible threat.

Gluten intolerance, also known as ” gluten-sensitive enteropathy “, is different, although they may share clinical manifestations, such as digestive discomfort or gastrointestinal problems. The difference is usually that intolerance does not cause direct damage to the small intestine, so the consequences are less serious but no less bothersome. Many things are currently being discovered about gluten-related diseases, both intolerances, and allergies, as well as celiac disease itself, and a clearer picture of their pathologies and consequences, as well as their differences, is gradually emerging.

Is it bad to consume gluten?

Despite the fashion or reluctance to eat gluten, the truth is that unless you are celiac or have a gluten intolerance, consuming it does not present any health problems. Curiously, there are several myths about gluten, such as the idea that “gluten makes you fat.” In reality, gluten itself does not contribute to weight gain; what can cause weight gain are high-calorie, carbohydrate-containing foods, such as breads, pasta, and cakes, if consumed in excess.

Another common myth is that gluten is inherently bad for everyone, which is not true. Gluten is simply a protein, and it is not harmful to most people. In the food industry, gluten is often used as a thickener and to improve the texture of processed foods. Without gluten, many products would not have the consistency and elasticity that makes them palatable. It has been around for a long time and is safe for most people to eat.

What foods are gluten-free?

We can distinguish between foods that are naturally gluten-free and those that are gluten-free because they have been processed to remove it.

Naturally gluten-free foods

Note: It is important to remember that although these foods do not contain gluten in their natural state, they can become contaminated with gluten during processing.

  • Fruits and vegetables: All fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free.
  • Meat and fish: Fresh, unprocessed meat, chicken, fish, and seafood do not contain gluten. Be careful, as we said, because meat products (sausages, sausages, etc., could contain gluten due to processing)
  • Eggs: Eggs are another gluten-free source of protein.
  • Dairy: Milk and most fresh dairy products, such as cheese and plain yogurt, are gluten-free. However, it is important to check labels on processed dairy products.
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas do not contain gluten.
  • Nuts and seeds: In their natural form, nuts and seeds do not contain gluten.
  • Gluten-free grains: Some grains that are naturally gluten-free include rice, corn, millet, sorghum, and quinoa.

Gluten-free processed foods

There are many processed products that have had gluten removed during manufacturing. These products are specifically designed for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease and require various techniques to remove gluten.

  • Gluten-free bread: There are many varieties of gluten-free bread available, made with alternative flour such as rice flour, almond flour, and corn flour.
  • Gluten-free cookies: There is a wide range of gluten-free cookies made with alternative ingredients.
  • Gluten-free beer: Some beers are made using gluten-free grains or by removing gluten during the production process.
  • Gluten-Free Flour: Gluten-free flour, such as almond flour, coconut flour, rice flour, and chickpea flour, are popular alternatives for gluten-free cooking and baking.
  • Various products: as we said, many other products (meat, dairy, etc.) contain gluten due to their ingredients. In the industry, it is increasingly common to find such products made with gluten-free materials.

How to follow a gluten-free diet

  • Read food labels: It is essential to check the labels of all food products. Look for the words “gluten-free” and check the ingredient list to make sure there are no hidden sources of gluten. More than just a tip, this is essential.
  • Fresh foods are your friends: Foods like fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, eggs and dairy products are ideal for controlling the presence of gluten since they do not contain it. On the contrary, it is quite common to find it in processed foods.
  • Look for the “gluten-free” seal: In addition to labels, as we said, it is increasingly common to find the “gluten-free” seal on foods, which makes it easier to remove it from our daily diet.
  • Be very careful with cross-contamination: Cross-contamination can occur both in the processing chain, which we cannot avoid and at home. In fact, the latter is usually the case. To avoid this, use separate utensils, cutting boards, and kitchen surfaces. Clean your hands and surfaces thoroughly before preparing gluten-free foods, do not put the foods in contact, and, in general, make sure that you separate the preparation process very well.
  • Restaurants and travel, a critical point: When eating out, the first thing to do is to inform the restaurant staff about the need for a gluten-free diet. The same is true for hotels and other hospitality venues. Look for restaurants that offer specific gluten-free menus and use apps or guides to find safe options during your travels. This is the best way to ensure that there will be no gluten in your diet.
  • Learning to cook with gluten-free ingredients: We know. Not only is removing gluten from your diet difficult, but sometimes it’s downright disappointing or annoying. Recipes don’t work, or they don’t turn out the same. Experiment with alternative flours and other gluten-free ingredients to prepare your meals. Or listen to someone who’s been there and use some recipes.

Alternatives to gluten-containing foods

Luckily, it’s becoming easier to find delicious and suitable substitutes. The world of gluten-free food is full of delicious and even more nutritionally suitable alternatives that can replace gluten-containing ingredients without sacrificing taste or texture.

  • Rice: Brown and white rice are naturally gluten-free and excellent bases for dishes, side dishes, and desserts.
  • Quinoa: A pseudocereal rich in protein and fiber, ideal for salads, soups, and stews.
  • Millet: A small, nutritious grain with a slightly nutty flavor, perfect for porridge, omelets, and side dishes.
  • Sorghum: A versatile grain that can be used in flour, flatbreads, and pasta.
  • Amaranth: A pseudocereal rich in protein and lysine, an essential amino acid. Ideal for porridge, bread, and biscuits.
  • Teff: A tiny grain with a high iron and fiber content, perfect for pancakes, crepes, and muffins.
  • Corn flour: A versatile flour that can be used for tortillas, breads, cakes, and batters. Make sure it is gluten-free.
  • Chickpea flour: A flour rich in protein and fiber, ideal for pizzas, crepes,, and pasta.
  • Almond Flour: A low-carb, healthy fat-rich flour perfect for cakes, cookies, and brownies.
  • Coconut Flour: A low-carb, high-fiber flour ideal for cakes, cookies, and pies.

Gluten-free recipes

There’s nothing better than starting an adventure with the assurance that someone has been there before. Especially if our health could be compromised. That’s why we bring you some affordable and delicious gluten-free recipes so you can get started in your kitchen. To start, gluten-free bread, an easy and delicious recipe to prepare homemade gluten-free bread, ideal for sandwiches and toast.

Gluten-free cookies are another quick and easy recipe to prepare delicious and crunchy gluten-free cookies, perfect for any occasion, just like gluten-free pancakes: Delicious and fluffy, perfect for a healthy breakfast or snack.

Continuing with the world of baking, you can try a gluten-free oat cake that is very nutritious, a soft and fluffy gluten-free cake that is ideal to enjoy at any time of the day or try some delicious and fluffy gluten-free muffins.

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