Gluten intolerance is on the rise all across the industrialized world, and those with a severe allergy to this wheat-based protein already know how difficult it can be to avoid, especially when eating out at restaurants. And to make matters worse, there are also many hidden sources of gluten that are not so obvious unless you know what to look for. Here are 10 of the most common hidden sources of gluten:
1) Scrambled eggs, omelets. When you make them at home, scrambled eggs and omelets typically contain just eggs, butter, vegetables, and perhaps a little milk. But some restaurants, in an effort to add a little extra “fluff” to their eggs, add flour or other gluten-containing additives. Always be sure to inquire about the ingredients in egg-based foods when eating out.
2) Soup. Many traditional soup recipes contain roux, a mixture of flour and fat that serves as a thickening base. Unless clearly delineated as being free of gluten, most soups likely contain added wheat flour, which means they are unfit for those with gluten intolerance or allergy.
3) Ground meat. Hamburger patties, meatloaf, meatballs, and other foods made from ground meat products are similarly thickened using breadcrumbs, in many cases. Be sure to look for 100 percent pure beef labels, for instance, and always ask your waiter or waitress when dining out whether or not flour or breadcrumbs are added to the the restaurant’s meat dishes.
4) Vitamins, dietary supplements and pharmaceutical drugs. Believe it or not, some vitamin and supplement manufacturers use casings, fillers, and other ingredients that may contain gluten. According to a recent U.S. News & World Report investigation, vitamins, supplements, and even pharmaceutical drugs can contain wheat-based “modified food starch” and other inactive ingredients with gluten.
5) Chinese food. Many of the dishes served at Chinese restaurants may appear to be gluten-free, containing just meat, rice and vegetables. But hidden inside most Chinese food dishes are condiment ingredients like soy, oyster and bean sauces that contain wheat-based ingredients. Unless it is specially prepared in a dedicated gluten-free environment with wheat-free ingredients, Chinese food is almost always a no-go.
6) French fries. Many people assume that French fries are just potato slices deep fried in oil. But in some cases, the French fries served at restaurants or sold frozen at the grocery store have been coated in a flour batter to make them crispier when cooked. And even when they haven’t been coated, deep frying oils in general can be contaminated with breading from other foods that have already been cooked in them.
7) Household appliances. Unless they are specifically used just for heating gluten-free foods, chances are your toaster and baking oven are hotbeds of gluten residue. Bread crumbs, spilled sauces, and other loose ingredients can easily contaminate other cooked foods, which is why it is vitally important that people with Celiac disease, the most severe form of gluten intolerance, use dedicated cooking appliances whenever possible.
8) Cosmetics, lip balms. The things we put on our bodies can be just as threatening as the things we put in our bodies, especially when gluten allergies are a factor. Researchers back in 2011 found that many popular cosmetics, including foundations, body lotions and other beauty products, contain gluten ingredients that may pose a threat. Similarly, some lip balms are offenders as well, which means it is always important to look for cosmetics and lip balms specifically labeled as being free of gluten.
9) Diet soda, artificially-sweetened foods. Though it does not actually contain gluten, the artificial sweetener aspartame is recognized as a serious offender for those with a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. Since it often triggers similar allergic symptoms, including severe stomach pain and bloating, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners might as well be gluten. Avoid them and spare yourself the pain and suffering.
10) Vegetables. When you can’t prepare them yourself, vegetables are another possible source of gluten contamination. Restaurants that serve pasta dishes may reuse the same water to cook vegetables, for instance, causing wheat ingredients and residue to soak directly into these vegetables. Again, always inquire about how foods are cooked whenever eating out, including seemingly unlikely offenders like vegetables.
For more information about hidden sources of gluten, be sure to check out the following survey compiled as part of the official GFCF Diet, or Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet: http://www.gfcfdiet.com/
Sources for this article include: