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The Low Down on Gluten

November 29, 2018
The Low Down on Gluten

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, kamut, khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale, which is a cross between wheat and rye.

So what foods contain gluten, and what is it’s role in our health?

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.  In general, most people will associate gluten as being part of the big 3, or wheat, rye, and barley.  Here is a list of food sources from each group.

  • Pasta – raviolis, dumplings, couscous, and gnocchi
  • Noodles – ramen, udon, soba (those made with only a percentage of buckwheat flour) chow mein, and egg noodles. (Note: rice noodles and mung bean noodles are gluten free)
  • Breads & Pastries – croissants, pita, naan, bagels, flatbreads, cornbread, potato bread, muffins, donuts, rolls
  • Crackers – pretzels, goldfish, graham crackers
  • Baked Goods – cakes, cookies, pie crusts, brownies, etc 
  • Cereal & Granola – Corn flakes and rice puffs often contain malt extract/flavoring, granola often made with regular oats, not gluten-free oats
  • Breakfast Items – pancakes, waffles, french toast, crepes, and biscuits
  • Breading – panko breadcrumbs 
  • Croutons – stuffing / dressings
  • Sauces & Gravy – (many use wheat flour as a thickener), traditional soy sauce, cream sauces made with a roux
  • Flour tortilla 
  • Beer – (unless explicitly gluten-free) and any malt beverages
  • Other items can be found HERE


Celiac Disease vs Gluten Sensitivity 

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale.  Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine and other major organ systems.  Gluten sensitivity has been coined to describe those individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease yet lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease.   

In other words, people with gluten sensitivity would not test positive for celiac disease based on blood testing, nor do they have the same type of intestinal damage found in individuals with celiac disease.  Some individuals may experience minimal intestinal damage, and this goes away with a gluten-free diet.

What about those Oats?

Oats can add diversity and offer many nutritional benefits to the gluten-free diet. The recommendation is to eat oats labeled gluten-free as cross-contact may occur when oats are grown side-by-side with wheat, barley or rye (very common practice).  In general, eating oats from any source may cause you to complain of symptoms resembling gluten intolerance.  This could be due to one or more of several factors, including intolerance to the increase in fiber, food intolerances, contamination with gluten, or, rarely, the development of an immune response to oat protein, similar to that occurring due to gluten.

Playing Detective – How to tell if a packaged food product contains gluten

Step 1 – A gluten-free label.  If a product claims to be gluten-free on the package, then it is most likely safe to eat as the FDA only allows packaged foods with less than 20ppm of gluten to be labeled “gluten-free.”   

However, you should still check the ingredients list {Wheat, Barley, Rye, Malt, Brewer’s yeast, Oats (unless specifically labeled gluten-free)}.  It is also important to remember that “wheat-free” does not necessarily mean “gluten-free.”

How to Eat Gluten Free

The most cost-effective and healthy way to follow the gluten-free diet is to seek out these naturally gluten-free food groups, which include:

  • Fruits and Vegetables (80% vegetable to 20% fruit consumption, remember fruit is just added sugar…)
  • Meat and Poultry (this should make up 50%-70% of your caloric intake)
  • Fish and Seafood (this is included in the 50-70%)
  • Dairy
  • Beans and legumes 
  • Nuts

The following grains and other starch-containing foods are naturally gluten-free:  Rice, Cassava, Corn (maize), Soy, Potato, Tapioca, Beans, Sorghum, Quinoa, Millet, Buckwheat groats (also known as kasha), Arrowroot, Amaranth, Teff, Flax, Chia, Yucca, Gluten-free oats, and nut flours.

What if I have more questions?

As someone who understands the anxiety, confusion, and fear that can come over you after leaving the doctor’s office (I still remember the day 15 years ago when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes) the best case scenario is to find help from a professional who can help you put together a plan and get your questions answered immediately.  The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet.  The Internet can be a wonderful help but can also be a source of confusion and misinformation.

An appointment with SVV Nutrition may help you get over those fears and on the right path!  The following is a list of items that would be included when working us here at SVV Nutrition:

  • An assessment to determine a nutritional plan. This includes the review of nutritional anemias, vitamin deficiencies, and other factors affecting quality of life. 
  • Locating sources of gluten inadvertently getting into your diet.
  • Help determine if your current symptoms are related to other dietary intolerances such as lactose or fructose. 
  • Assessment of gastrointestinal symptoms as well as others related to celiac disease and the conditions it sometimes causes.
  • Nutritional advice and education on how to follow a gluten-free diet.
  • Gluten-free meal plans, the consumption of whole and enriched gluten-free grains, the addition of multivitamins and mineral supplements (calcium, Vitamin D, iron)
  • How to read labels to determine if a food is gluten free. 
  • Reliable sources of further information.


Example of a 1 day menu

Spinach and Oven-Roasted Tomato Omelet
Servings: 2 


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup oven-roasted tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional) 

Tacos or Taco Salad
Servings: 4  


1 pound ground beef or any white fish
2 tablespoons all natural taco mix
1 head iceberg lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces or shredded
1 large tomato, chopped
1 avocado, sliced or chopped
salt to taste 

Balsamic Glazed Chicken with Mushrooms
Servings: 4  


1 pound chicken breast (skinless, boneless)
1 can (15 ounces) low sodium chicken broth
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
1 tablespoon corn starch
salt and pepper 

By: Sean

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