20 Surprising Sources of Gluten

Whether you suffer from celiac disease, or you’re trying to cut down on sugar, gluten is one ingredient you should definitely avoid. You may be surprised to learn that it’s in many of the foods we eat and the personal care items we use every day. Here are 20 surprising sources of gluten to be aware of. We always recommend reading your ingredient labels before making a purchase, especially if there are ingredients (i.e. gluten) that you’re trying to stay away from.

1. Beauty products. Sadly this may include some of your favorite shampoos, conditioners, sunscreens, and makeup items such as lipstick or lip balm. Though not directly ingested through the mouth, they may easily seep into your body through your pores and still be able to cause damage. If you have a gluten allergy, you may want to replace your beauty products with ones that are certified gluten-free. Check your labels!

2. Chewing gum. Some manufacturers rub flour on the surface of the sticks to prevent them from sticking to the wrappers.

3. Sauces, condiments & dressings. This includes some prepared mustards, soy sauce (yes, it’s true!),  salad dressings, as well as frozen veggies in sauce.

4. Oats. Though technically gluten-free, some brands may be contaminated with gluten, so it’s important to be careful here. Make sure any oats you buy are certified gluten-free.

5. Pie filling & pudding. These items often contain gluten as an emulsifier or thickening agent. We recommend that you make your own from scratch (without gluten) in order to be safe. You can use plain fruit sweetened with honey or stevia. Or, if you’d like a thickening agent, arrowroot flour is a great gluten-free option!

6. Processed meats. Be extra careful with hot dogs, store-bought meatballs, and deli meats, which may (surprisingly) contain bread crumbs. It’s best to stick with local, grass-fed, organic meats that have not been processed anyway.

7. Spices. Some pre-packaged, mixed spices, may be contaminated with gluten. It’s often used to prevent caking, which is why we recommend mixing your own from whole, pure spices instead.

8. Instant coffee, hot chocolate & other powdered drink mixes. Powdered milk contains wheat, and again, manufacturers of powdered mixes often use gluten as a bulking agent. You can get gluten-free alternatives though. Check your local health food store or search online.

9. Canned soup. Try to buy organic soups in cartons or make your own with fresh vegetables and bone broth. Many canned soup brands contain gluten or wheat as a thickening agent, so it’s important to read the ingredients.

10. Licorice. Wheat flour is often used as a binding agent.

11. Caramel color. We recommend staying away from this artificial coloring agent altogether. It may contain gluten, depending on how its manufactured, but either way, it’s just not good for you.

12. Alcohols. Though the distillation process often rids this grain-based substance of gluten, not all alcohol manufacturers will utilize a thorough distillation process, resulting in some traces of gluten being left behind. You may need to check the company website to determine if their alcohol is gluten-free. Or stay away from alcohol entirely. It weakens your immune system anyway.

13. Rotisserie chicken. Seems strange for meat to contain gluten, right? However, some rotisserie chicken makers use flour or wheat in the spice rub. Double check before you purchase.

14. Sushi. As mentioned above, soy sauce often contains gluten, along with the imitation crab meat used in California rolls, as well as some prepared wasabi. Try making your own sushi at home! It’s a fun date-night activity.

15. Pickles. Not all pickle jars contain gluten. You have to check the label to be sure. If it contains malt vinegar, which comes from barley, then it’s a no-go.

16. Chocolate. Again, not all chocolate contains gluten, but it may be used as a thickening agent. We prefer pure, organic dark chocolate sweetened with stevia instead. (Lily’s is great brand!)

17. Medicines & supplements. It may be used as a binder in some medications and vitamins. You’ll be safe with Maximized Living nutritional supplements.

18. Bleu cheese. It may sound surprising, but some bleu cheeses are actually made with bread mold. Though it’s a minuscule amount and likely won’t affect you, it’s better to be safe than sorry (especially if you’re particularly sensitive.)

19. French fries. Though usually made with potatoes, oil, and salt, if they are fried in oil that’s also used to fry onion rings and other breaded foods that contain gluten, you could risk cross-contamination. Be especially careful if you order french fries at a restaurant.

20. “Wheat-free” items. Wheat-free doesn’t always mean gluten-free. In addition to wheat, gluten may also come from other grains, including rye, spelt and barley. Again, check your labels!

Embracing a gluten-free diet isn’t as hard as it sounds, especially with more and more food manufacturers coming on board to label their products “gluten-free.” Yes, it may mean you’ll have to eat out less and prepare more foods from scratch with fresh, unprocessed ingredients, but it’s worth it, because you’ll see a drastic improvement in your health as a result!


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