This post originally appeared on the bSmart Guide.
Searching for gluten in products used to be as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. But with the growing popularity of the gluten-free diet comes a growing awareness for the allergy. Our first instinct when it comes to avoiding gluten is to look for foods labeled gluten-free. Unfortunately, there is no law requiring foods to have this label. While many wheat products containing gluten are no brainers (such as bread, cereal, baked goods and pasta), surprisingly, wheat/gluten can also be found in sauces, salad dressings, and roux.
Before we can understand why gluten is hidden in so many products, we should first examine what gluten is. According to Celiac.com, ‘Gluten is an umbrella term used to describe a mixture of individual proteins found in many grains.’ Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that is used as a binding agent. It also acts like a glue and helps wheat and other products maintain their shape.
Below are 10 surprising places gluten might be hiding in your diet or beauty routine causing you mild discomfort or an allegic reaction.
Though it can be difficult to identify which medications have gluten, generic medications commonly include traces of gluten. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is used in many medications as an excipient. In other words, gluten is used as an inactive substance that serves as the bridge for a drug or other active substance. Ask your pharmacist if your prescription has gluten in it.
2) Vitamin supplements
Just like in medications and cosmetics, gluten acts as an excipient or a binding protein in vitamin supplements. Pay close attention to your protein powders, as Whey protein also contains gluten.
3) Beauty products
After my mother started using an anti-aging serum, her face broke out into what looked like a combination of hives and blemishes. The serum was made by a reputable brand that she’s been using for years. Confused, she called the company. ‘Do you have any food allergies?’ the representative asked. That’s when it clicked. My mother suffers from Celiac disease. The serum has gluten and it’s not the only beauty product that does. Most anti-aging products contain gluten. When trying to decide if your beauty products are gluten-free, look for ingredients such as wheat germ or barley extract. Pay specific attention to your lip products as they are the easiest to ingest!
What about a pickled cucumber has gluten in it? The beer. Malt vinegar, a liquid similar to beer, is used in some pickling processes. Although you most likely will not see gluten on the ingredient list on a jar of pickles, this is something to avoid if you’re trying to live a true gluten-free diet.
Most beers are made with a gluten protein found in barley, also known as hordein. While some light beers are gluten-free, it’s best to double check before ordering your favorite beer.
When making gravy, your grandmother most likely added a cup or two of flour to thicken the sauce. The same goes for the gravies you pick up at your local grocery store. To be one hundred percent positive that your gravy is indeed gluten free, make it at home and swap the flour out for cornstarch.
7) Soy sauce
As my personal favorite condiment, I learned the hard way that gluten is indeed found in soy sauce. When I first started my gluten-free diet, gluten-free soy sauce ran close to $10 per bottle whereas the normal soy sauce was only a few dollars. With the growing popularity of this diet, gluten-free soy sauce has dropped significantly in price. Before the drop in price, I thought I would be ok with eating the normal soy sauce. Boy was I wrong. After constant pain after eating the condiment, I finally made the switch. The issue with soy sauce is not the actual product itself, but the manufacturing process, specifically in cross contamination.
8) French fries
What about a fried potato has gluten in it? The answer should be nothing, but more often than not you are eating a potato fried in oil used to fry breaded onion rings, hush puppies, or even fried chicken. Some restaurants are beginning to have a separate batch of oil for gluten free products, but it is best to double check before ingesting gluten.
9) Salad dressing
Just like with gravy, flour is often used to thicken salad dressings. It’s in your best interest to ask your waiter/waitress what salad dressings are gluten-free. To play it safe, you can always count on oil and vinegar!
10) Pre-mixed seasonings/ flavored potato chips
Surprisingly, taco seasonings and barbeque chips can contain gluten. Keep an eye out for ingredients such as wheat, barley, rye, or oats. They are not gluten-free friendly! If the seasoning mix or potato chip package does not clearly state they are gluten-free, it’s most likely due to cross-contamination.
Moral of the story is, read your ingredient labels, double-check with your waiter, and order a salad with oil and vinegar if you want to play it safe!
Keep things gluten free and covered up!