4 Surprising Foods That Contain Gluten

Gluten is a big diet buzzword these days, and chances are someone you know avoids it like the plague.

But whether you eat a gluten-free diet because of

  • Celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder that causes intestinal damage;
  • Gluten intolerance, a condition in which gluten may cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal and other symptoms but isn't generally dangerous;
  • Or simply a belief that avoiding gluten is a healthful way of life, it's important to know that a few foods you might not expect can contain this protein.

When should you exercise caution?

1. Soy Sauce
Most commercial brands of soy sauce contain wheat, so shop carefully for one that doesn't. Going out for Chinese food? Be especially wary of what you order, as many dishes are soy-sauce based. Ask that your food be prepared without it, or bring your own bottle of gluten-free soy sauce and request that the chef use it.

2. Soup
Sure, that cream-based chowder probably has wheat flour in it. But what about broth-based soups? You're not necessarily home free ordering those. An example is miso soup, which is made with a soy paste, according to Margaret Weiss, RD, CDE, clinical manager of the Kogan Celiac Center at Barnabas Health in Livingston, NJ. "Frequently, that paste has wheat in it," Weiss says. Ask your server to verify the ingredients for you. If there's a language barrier, you may be better off skipping the soup entirely.

3. Beer
It's ever-present at barbecues and ball games, but since most beer is produced using barley malt, this drink is a no-no for people who can't tolerate gluten. However, there are a number of gluten-free beers on the market, most commonly made with sorghum, a gluten-free grain.

4. Cereal
Some brands of cereal obviously contain gluten, such as those made with wheat. But Weiss cautions that even cereals made with gluten-free grains such as corn or rice may be sweetened with barley malt. Check boxes carefully, as certain companies market both gluten-free and gluten-containing versions of the same cereal.

The good news is that many products people fear contain gluten actually are safe to eat. If you're worried that your chewing gum or shredded cheese have been dusted with flour before packaging, relax.

"We no longer have to worry about these kinds of things, thanks to things we've learned about manufacturing over time and changes to labeling laws," Weiss says. "Current regulations require that ingredients incidental to processing must be included in the 'ingredients' or 'contains' statement." In other words, if it doesn't say "wheat" on the label, it doesn't contain wheat.

Other things you can safely use? Lipstick, envelopes and stamps that need to be licked, and vinegar (except for malt vinegar).

Margaret Weiss, RD, CDE, reviewed this article.




Margaret Weiss, RD, CDE, Kogan Celiac Center; "Interim Policy on Gluten Content Statements in the Labeling and Advertising of Wines, Distilled Spirits, and Malt Beverages." Celiac Sprue Association, accessed September 12, 2013.