The potential inflammatory and gut-disruptive effects of gluten have gained widespread popularity over the past decade or so. Diagnosis rates of celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that involves an allergy to gluten, along with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NSGS) have increased significantly and many people have shifted their diets to avoid gluten entirely. Accordingly, food manufacturers have responded with a market that is now flooded with gluten-free options for nearly every common food product.
Gluten is a protein found in certain grains. While it is perfectly healthy for plenty of people, those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities may experience bloating, abdominal discomfort, inflammation, diarrhea, and in the case of celiac, structured damage to the absorptive villi structures in the gut. If you’re finding yourself reacting to foods high in gluten, you should consider cutting out gluten for a period of time to see if your symptoms go away. Not sure what the culprits are? Below, we share a list of 11 foods high in gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and triticale, which is a hybrid of wheat and rye. As such, most conventional flours are high in gluten. Any white or wheat flour that includes wheat will be high in gluten. There are, however, alternative gluten-free flours for baking and cooking for those with gluten sensitivities. Examples of gluten-free flours include rice flour, tapioca flour, and chickpea flour. Chickpea flour, which is made from garbanzo beans, has the advantage of providing some fiber and protein.
Flour is the backbone of bread, of course, so many breads are high in gluten. Keep in mind that rye also contains a lot of gluten, so it’s not just breads with wheat and barley that need to be avoided. When considering bread products, flour tortillas, English muffins, biscuits, flatbreads, dinner rolls, croutons, breadcrumbs, pitas, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, and pizza dough are all high in gluten as well (unless, of course, you’re deliberately buying a gluten-free bread product).
Bagels and doughnuts are high in gluten because they are made from flour. There are some gluten-free bagels now, but most of them lose the characteristic toothsome texture that bagels made with traditional wheat flour have. Gluten is a structural protein and it influences the texture and rise of a baked item. Unfortunately, gluten-free analogs often have a different texture since the molecular structure cannot be duplicated with the gluten-free substitute.
Since wheat is high in gluten and most pasta is made from semolina or wheat flour, conventional pasta is high in gluten. This also includes couscous, lasagna, ravioli, and tortellini, along with canned soups containing noodles or pasta. In addition, barley is high in gluten, so it needs to be avoided as well. There is some gluten-free pasta these days, such as rice or brown rice pasta, corn pasta, and even pasta made from legumes like lentils and chickpeas.
Crackers and cookies are typically made with flour that contains gluten. Graham crackers, pita chips, certain tortilla chips, and even some potato chips may also contain gluten. Even ice creams that have cookies will contain small amounts of gluten. Many granola bars also contain gluten, but those that only use gluten-free oats and don’t contain wheat may be gluten-free. Fortunately, if you have a penchant for sweets, there are many gluten-free cookie options these days. Even Oreos come in a gluten-free variety.
Breakfast cereals can be a great way to get vitamins and minerals, such as iron, biotin, zinc, and vitamin B12, as well as whole grains. However, any cereal that contains wheat, rye, or barley will be high in gluten. This includes wheat bran, wheat germ, and varieties of wheat like spelt, durum, and einkorn. Look for oat or corn-based cereals marked gluten-free.
Pancakes, waffles, crepes, and any variation therein are high in gluten unless they are made from gluten-free flour. There are grain-free pancake mixes made with almond flour, or you can whip up gluten-free protein pancakes made with egg whites, bananas, and protein powder.
Pastries like croissants, eclairs, pies, cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, and cupcakes are all high in gluten. Similarly, you’ll want to avoid cereal bars, toaster pastries, hot pockets, or anything with a dough component.
Many vegan meat substitutes are actually very high in gluten. In fact, seitan, which is used as a meat substitute, is made nearly entirely from gluten. Since gluten is a protein, it can be an excellent source of muscle-building amino acids for those who can eat it, and it’s also quite high in iron. It has a meaty texture, as well, so it takes well to plant-based meat applications. Many vegan chicken nuggets, veggie burgers, vegan sausages, and similar products are thus among the highest gluten-containing foods. In that vein, any vegan or meat-based product that’s breaded (chicken nuggets, onion rings, certain French fries, etc.) usually has gluten due to the flour for the breadcrumbs used.
Beers, ales, and lagers often contain wheat, rye, or barley. Most malted beverages do contain gluten, though there are now some gluten-free beers that even those with celiac disease can enjoy.
While not necessarily high in gluten, lots of condiments do contain some amount of gluten and need to be avoided if you need to go entirely gluten-free. Soy sauce, Worcester sauce, many salad dressings and dips, any kind of malt extract, and marinades may contain gluten, so be sure to check the label before buying.
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