What is gluten? Is it bread? It is not uncommon for people to be confused about what gluten actually is. Gluten is not a food group itself; it is a large protein found in many grains, such as wheat, barley and rye. Gluten can be hard to digest and can cause inflammation and damage to the gut lining, resulting in intestinal permeability, or leaky gut as the better-known term. This damage can lead to a whole range of problems such as poor immunity, nutrient deficiencies and digestive symptoms. There are many people who are intolerant or sensitive to gluten without realising and there are individuals with coeliac disease, who have a full-blown allergy to gluten.
Bread, pasta, cake, muffins, pizza and donuts are the obvious gluten-containing foods. Those individuals that try to follow a low-gluten or gluten-free diet to better their health, will know to avoid these types of foods. However, there are many sneaky sources of gluten and if you’re not an avid label-reader you may be eating gluten without even realising it. Did you know that the following foods could contain gluten?
1. Hot chips
But they are just potato, right? Think again. If you make them yourself, you merely slice the potato and fry them in oil and they will be gluten-free. However, when you buy them from your local pub or take away store they could be coated in flour or fried in the same oil as breaded foods. Those beer battered chips that you love so much? Gluten.
Sausages and other types of processed meats can often contain hidden gluten. This is because the offcuts of meat can be blended with breadcrumbs or flour to hold them together. So, next time you have a sausage sandwich minus the bread, thinking you are avoiding gluten- be sure to check the ingredient list.
3. Soy sauce
Soy sauce offers a wonderfully salty addition to your sushi or stir-fry. It is made from both soy and wheat, meaning it contains gluten. For the gluten-intolerant soy sauce lovers out there, there is good news- tamari sauce tastes very similar to soy sauce and is completely gluten-free!
Whilst the soup you whip up in your slow cooker at home will usually be gluten-free (unless you add pasta or barley to it), the soup you purchase from the supermarket shelf may be a different story. Packet soups are the worst offenders, but also be sure to check canned soup for hidden gluten.
5. Taco seasoning
Prepacked seasoning mixes are not as innocent as they seem. They often contain glutinous thickeners to stop them from clumping. You are better off putting in the extra effort and mixing your own herbs and spices together to add flavour to your food.
As mentioned in the name of the product, Maltesers are made from malt, which is derived from barley. Barley is a gluten-containing grain, so unfortunately, Maltesers are off the list of sweet treats if you’re sensitive to gluten.
Before smothering your roast lamb and veggies with gravy, be sure to check the ingredients. Many conventional gravy powders, or those served at restaurants are thickened with wheat flour. Using corn starch is a gluten-free alternative!
Ahh not the grog too! Whilst technically not a food, many people forget that beer and ale contain gluten. If you are sensitive to gluten, be sure to choose gluten-free alternatives, and to drink responsibly of course!
You probably noticed whilst reading this list that gluten is hidden in foods that are processed. If the bulk of your diet is made up of vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, chicken, nuts and seeds then you will not only better your health, but you will also limit the number of labels you have to read! If treating yourself to a packaged food, double check the label to avoid the sneaky gluten. For more information on gluten, the types of testing available and the best gluten-free alternatives, read Dr Cabot’s book Gluten- Is it Making you Sick or Fat?