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What is Gluten?

Pretzels have GlutenGluten is a composite of the proteins gliadin and glutenin. These exist, conjoined with starch, in the endosperms of some grass-related grains, notably wheat, rye, and barley. Gliadin and glutenin comprise about 80% of the protein contained in wheat seed. Being insoluble in water, they can be purified by washing away the associated starch. Worldwide, gluten is an important source of nutritional protein, both in foods prepared directly from sources containing it, and as an additive to foods otherwise low in protein. Although gluten is commonly associated with wheat, not all wheat products contain gluten. For instance highly processed wheat glucose has been found to contain no detectable gluten.


The seeds of most flowering plants have endosperms with stored protein to nourish embryonic plants during germination, but true gluten with gliadin and glutenin is limited to certain members of the grass family. The stored proteins of maize and rice are sometimes called glutens, but their proteins differ from wheat gluten by lacking glutenin. The glutenin in wheat flour gives kneaded dough in its elasticity and allows leavening and contributes chewiness to baked products like bagels.


Since the mid-20th century, wheat gluten has been increasingly adopted by vegetarians in western nations as a realistic meat substitute, particularly by vegetarians who previously ate meat and miss its taste and texture.

Major Sources

Gluten can be found in:
  • Bread and bread rolls
  • Pretzels
  • Muffins
  • Biscuits or cookies
  • Bulgar wheat
  • Coucous
  • Scones
  • All Bran
  • Barley water drinks
  • Rye bread
  • pumpernickel
  • Cakes
  • Pastry or pie crust
  • Pasta - macaroni
  • Spaghetti
  • Durhum
  • Pizza
  • Anything in breadcrumbs
  • Sponge puddings
  • Malted drinks such as Horlicks
  • Yorkshire pudding
  • Stuffings
  • Pancakes
  • Crispbreads
  • Crumble toppings
  • Semolina
  • Sponge puddings
  • Muesli etc are the major sources of Gluten.

Foods with Hidden Gluten

Other foods containing gluten could trick the unsuspecting newly diagnosed Celiac sufferer into thinking they are safe. The list below shows things that should be checked.
  • Sausages - often contain rusk
  • Gravy powders and stock cubes such as OXO cubes
  • Seitan, Farina
  • Self basting turkeys
  • Soups - may be roux based (made with flour)
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Soy sauce
  • Chutneys and pickles
  • White pepper
  • Supplements
  • Some pharmaceutical products
  • Luncheon meat - may contain fillers
  • Matzo flour/meal
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Meat and fish pastes
  • Sauces - often thickened with flour
  • Mustard - dry mustard powder contains gluten
  • Cheap brands of chocolate
  • Drinking chocolate
  • Salad dressings
  • Malt vinegar
  • Some toothpastes
  • Blue cheeses (may be made with bread)
  • Shredded suet in packs (flour is normally used to keep the strands separate)
  • Baked beans (there may be gluten in the tomato sauce)
  • Pates
  • Alcoholic drinks - such as beer
  • ale
  • lager
  • Instant coffee - may be bulked out with flour
  • Potato chips
  • Licorice
  • Curry powder and other spices (can be bulked out with flour)
  • Play Dough
  • Some lipsticks etc.

Foods High in Gluten

Besides the obvious foods like breads, crackers, and snacks made from wheat, here is a partial list of foods and food ingredients that sometimes or always contain gluten; these sometimes surprising examples are common hidden components of many foods (read labels carefully):

• soy sauce (unless specified "wheat free")
• barley malt (a sweetener commonly used in breakfast cereals, snacks, and convenience foods)
• beer
• malt, including malted milk, malted liquor, etc.
• maltodextrin and dextrin (a common additive)
• battered foods
• some types of thickeners and stabilizers
• some processed meats and meat products
• some types of instant cocoa (Ovaltine contains gluten)
• some gravies
• some icings
• some types of snack foods with added seasonings

Primary chinese forms of wheat gluten:

1.     Oily/oil fried gluten: Raw gluten that has been torn into small bits, then deep fried into small puffy balls of around 3–5 cm in diameter and sold as "imitation abalone". They are golden brown in color, and braised or boiled in a savory soup or stew before eating. Larger fried balls of gluten, which may be up to 5 inches in diameter, are sometimes seen in Asian supermarkets. These are often stuffed with meat or tofu mixtures and served as a dish called "gluten meatballs" or "gluten stuffed with meat".

2.     Steamed gluten: Raw gluten that has been wrapped around itself to form a long sausage shape which is then steamed. This type of gluten has a dense texture and ranges from off-white to light greenish grey in color. It is torn open into strips before being used as an ingredient in recipes. When this sausage-shaped gluten is thickly sliced into medallions. Larger blocks of steamed gluten are sometimes colored pink and sold as vegetarian "mock ham."

3.     Baked spongy gluten: Similar in texture to a sponge, is made by leavening raw gluten, then baking or steaming it. These are sold as small blocks in Chinese markets and are then diced up and cooked. This type of gluten absorbs its cooking liquid like a sponge and is enjoyed for its "juicy" character. Kao fu is available in fresh, frozen, and canned forms.

Gluten Keywords to Watch For

The following words and phrases that could spell danger and usually contain gluten:
  • Flavorings
  • Edible or Food Starch
  • Fillers
  • Seasonings
  • Binder
  • Rusk
  • Bran
  • Wheatgerm
  • Wheat protein
  • Wholegrain
  • Thickening
  • Wheat starch
  • Malt etc.

Other Sources

The following may also contain traces of gluten:
  • coffee substitutes
  • coffee
  • commercial chocolate milk
  • malted milk
  • postum
  • ovaltine
  • ale
  • beer and all other alcoholic beverages; all bread products made from wheat
  • buckwheat flour mixes
  • and bread crumbs; rice Krispies and Corn flakes; commercially prepared entrees;  processed cheese and cheese products containing gluten stabilizers;  processed meats with fillers; meat alternatives or protein substitutes that may have gluten stabilizers; barley
  • macaroni
  • noodles
  • and spaghetti; any prepared with wheat
  • rye or oats; canned soups containing prohibited ingredients; Desserts prepared from wheat
  • barley; all commercial desserts and mixes; ice cream and sherbet with cereal stabilizers and commercial salad dressings with gluten stabilizers

Gluten Links
Free Gluten Diet
Sample Gluten Free Diet Meal Plan

Other Nutrient Rich Foods

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