By Celiac Disease Foundation
Cutting out gluten from your diet may seem like a difficult and limiting task. Fortunately, there are many healthy and delicious foods that are naturally gluten-free! In fact, the most cost-effective and healthy way to follow the gluten-free diet is to seek out these naturally gluten-free food groups, which include:
- Meat and poultry
- Fish and seafood
- Beans, legumes, and nuts
Pure wheat grass and barley grass are gluten-free, but there is gluten in the seeds. If they are not harvested or handled correctly, there is risk of contamination.
What About Grains?
While grains that contain gluten are out, there are many naturally gluten-free grains that you can enjoy in a variety of creative ways. Many of these grains can be found in your local grocery store, but some of the lesser-known grains may only be found in specialty or health food stores. It is not recommended to purchase grains from bulk bins because of the possibility for cross-contact with gluten. For information on gluten-free flour substitutes, see our recipes page. The following grains and other starch-containing foods are naturally gluten-free:
- corn (maize)
- buckwheat groats (also known as kasha)
- gluten-free oats
- nut flours
There has been some research that certain naturally gluten-free grains may contain gluten from cross-contact with gluten-containing grains through harvesting and processing. If you are concerned about the safety of a grain, purchase only versions that are tested for the presence of gluten and contain less than 20 ppm.
Many items that usually contain gluten have gluten-free alternatives that are widely available in most grocery stores, and make living gluten-free much easier. Keep in mind, however, that minimally processed fresh foods are a crucial part of a healthy gluten-free diet. It is very important to base your diet around fruits, vegetables, meats, and other healthy food groups listed above.
Many commercially available products are labeled “gluten-free,” but there will be some that are not; this is why proper label reading is important. It is also important to remember that “wheat-free” does not necessarily mean “gluten-free.” Be wary, as many products may appear to be gluten-free, but are not (see Sources of Gluten).
As a rule, traditional wheat products such as pastas, breads, crackers, and other baked goods are not gluten-free. However, there are many gluten-free options available that use alternative flours and grains. Health food stores have a wide variety of options, but commercial grocery stores are also beginning to carry a sizeable number of gluten-free products. Often, gluten-free bread can be found in the freezer section. Additionally, there are gluten-free flours and flour blends available, allowing you to bake your own bread.
Many cereals contain gluten or wheat-based ingredients, but there are some that do not. Be on the lookout for the “gluten-free” label, but also realize that not all gluten-free cereals will advertise as such, so it is important to check the list of ingredients. Something to watch out for: cornflakes and puffed rice cereal may contain malt flavoring or extract, which contains gluten!
Oats are often harvested and processed with the same equipment that is used for wheat, and are therefore easily contaminated. Research indicates that pure, uncontaminated oats consumed in moderation (up to ½ cup dry rolled oats daily) are tolerated by most people with celiac disease. Look for oats specifically labeled gluten-free in all products containing oats, including granolas and granola bars.
Soups and Sauces
Soups and sauces are one of the biggest sources of hidden gluten, as many companies use wheat as a thickener. It is always a good idea to read the label of any pre-prepared or canned soups and sauces, paying special attention to those that are cream-based.
Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free. However, it is important to read labels on any processed fruits and veggies, as well as dried fruit and pre-prepared smoothies. Additionally, packaged frozen potatoes are not always gluten-free, and labels should be read carefully when considering these products.
Most beverages are gluten-free, including juices, sodas, and sports drinks. Alcoholic beverages, including wines and hard liquor/distilled liquors/hard ciders are also gluten-free. However, beers, ales, lagers, malt beverages and malt vinegars that are made from gluten-containing grains are not distilled and therefore are not gluten-free. There are several brands of gluten-free beers available in the United States and abroad.