Gluten can be confusing because it can be found in all kinds of foods where it shouldn't and doesn't need to be. Like watermelon juice. Why is there gluten in watermelon juice? This was a baffling, scary and disappointing find, but further reinforced why it is important to know WHAT gluten is.
Gluten refers to the proteins found in cereal grain’s endosperm (a type of tissue produced in seeds that are ground to make flour). Gluten both nourishes plant embryos during germination and later affects the elasticity of dough, which in turn affects the chewiness of baked products.
Gluten is actually composed of two different proteins: gliadin (a prolamin protein) and glutenin (a glutelin protein). Though true gluten is sometimes defined as being specific to wheat, gluten is also found in barley, rye and a grain that is a cross between wheat and rye called triticale.
Where is Gluten Usually Found?
Gluten is found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, khorasan wheat and einkorn) rye, barley and triticale. You will find these ingredients in breads, pastas, baked goods, cereals, some sauces, most soups (except ours!), salad dressings, desserts, beer, vodka... and the list goes on.
Gluten "hides" in a variety of unlikely places as well. It is obvious that pizza has gluten in it because it requires wheat flour (unless the chef uses rice flour, then it would be gluten-free). But, why is gluten in salad dressings? Wheat flour is used as a thickening agent in many sauces and dressings. Obviously Italian dressing does not need wheat flour to make it rise, it uses it to thicken the consistency of it so that it is not so oily. The same thing is true with soups. This was a very sad realization when I learned I was a Celiac. This was why Brooke & Bradford was started- to create a soup that was void of all gluten and allergens.
The FDA allows a lot of things to slip through the cracks (more on this in other articles) but one thing that they have been proficient at is the allergen labeling laws. If there is gluten in a product, it MUST say so at the end of the ingredient list. So, you don't necessarily have to know what all the names gluten might be hiding behind. At the end of the list it will say: Contains Wheat. That is the key. There are only 8 allergens designated by the FDA- wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, shellfish, milk, eggs, fish. No Ingredient list will say "gluten" as an ingredient though. It will say "wheat flour" or "spelt". Or some other tricky name.
What Is Safe to Eat?
I will spend much more time writing about this on this blog. The quick and dirty is to stay away from wheat, rye and barley. Rice and corn are safe. Corn tortillas for tacos are ok. Flour tortillas are not. Potatoes are safe (a question my mom asked me today). Potato vodka is ok- such as Chopin, but wheat vodka such as Grey Goose is not. Brooke & Bradford soup is ok, Campbell's is not. Plain rice is great. Rice marinated or cooked with a dressing or sauce that has gluten in it, is not. This is when eating out gets tricky. But, the more you learn about what gluten is, where it is hiding and how to avoid it, the more healthy you will feel. There will always be setbacks, and they won't always be your fault But, you will start over, heal and keep trying to stay gluten free!