Are almonds considered gluten-free?

The Short Answer

Yes, almonds are naturally gluten-free. Almonds do not contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity can safely eat almonds without worrying about gluten exposure.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye (Triticale and oats also contain gluten but in lower amounts). The two main proteins that make up gluten are gliadin and glutenin.

When flour from these grains is mixed with water, the gluten proteins form an elastic network that gives bread, pasta, and other baked goods their chewy texture. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, eating gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine.

People with gluten-related disorders must avoid all foods and products containing gluten in order to manage their condition. This includes obvious sources like bread, pizza, pasta, and baked goods. But gluten can also lurk in less obvious places like soy sauce, salad dressing, medications, lip balm, and even the glue on envelopes.

Thankfully, many whole foods without gluten are naturally “gluten-free” including fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, fish, and dairy.

Are Almonds Naturally Gluten-Free?

Yes, almonds are naturally gluten-free. Almonds are tree nuts that grow on almond trees. There are different varieties of almonds including California almonds, Mission almonds, Valencia almonds, and Italian sweet almonds.

Almonds do not contain any gluten proteins. This means that plain raw almonds, roasted almonds, sliced almonds, almond butter, almond milk, and other products made purely from almonds will be 100% gluten-free.

The Celiac Disease Foundation, Beyond Celiac, and other reputable organizations recognize almonds as a gluten-free food. Almonds are routinely included in gluten-free diets and recommended as a nutritious gluten-free option.

Cross-Contamination Risks

While almonds are naturally gluten-free, there is a small risk of cross-contamination during processing and manufacturing. Cross-contamination occurs when a gluten-free food comes into contact with a food containing gluten.

Some potential sources of cross-contamination include:

During Growing and Harvesting

– Farm equipment that previously handled wheat, barley, or rye
– Transport in shared containers with gluten-containing crops
– Dust particles from neighboring fields growing gluten grains

During Processing

– Shared equipment to roast, slice, grind, and package almonds
– Shared facility that also processes oats, wheat-based products
– Airborne flour particles settling on equipment
– Workers not washing hands after eating gluten foods

During Manufacturing

– Flavorings or oils containing gluten ingredients
– Cross-contact with gluten-containing foods on shared lines
– Shared equipment for almond milk, almond butter, etc

Thankfully, many almond producers are aware of cross-contamination risks and implement good manufacturing practices to avoid contact with gluten. Look for almond products that are certified gluten-free or state they are produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility.

Reputable brands like Blue Diamond Almonds (plain and flavored), Kirkland Signature Almonds, and Trader Joe’s Almonds are labeled gluten-free. Always double check the label each time you purchase a product in case the formulation changes.

How Much Gluten is Safe?

The limit for gluten in foods labeled “gluten-free” is 20 parts per million (ppm) in the U.S. Foods containing less than 20 ppm gluten are generally considered safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

In comparison, regular wheat bread contains around 80,000-120,000 ppm of gluten! So 20 ppm is an extremely small amount.

Some celiac organizations recommend even stricter limits:

– Celiac Disease Foundation: limit to 5 ppm or less
– Gluten Intolerance Group: limit to 10 ppm or less

People who are highly sensitive may wish to stick to almonds and nut products with 5 ppm gluten or less. But most individuals can tolerate almonds and almond products that are below the 20 ppm FDA threshold.

It’s also a good idea to vary your nut and seed intake and not just rely on one type like almonds. This minimizes risk of exposure to any traces of gluten that could be present.

Look for Gluten-Free Certification

The best way to identify almond products with the lowest risk of gluten cross-contact is to look for independent gluten-free certification.

There are a few highly reputable gluten-free certifying organizations to look for on labels including:

Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)

The GFCO is the leading gluten-free certification program in North America. Foods must contain 10 ppm or less gluten to become GFCO certified. This is stricter than the FDA’s 20 ppm limit.

Australian Gluten Free (The Crossed Grain Symbol)

The Crossed Grain symbol guarantees products contain no detectable gluten. To qualify, foods must test below 5 ppm gluten.

Coeliac UK Gluten Free

This certification from the national charity Coeliac UK denotes less than 20 ppm gluten. Some products achieve “Extra Low Gluten” status with less than 3 ppm.

Gluten-Free Certification Program

This program of the Gluten Intolerance Group sets the gluten limit at 10 ppm or less.

Look for Dedicated Production

In addition to certified gluten-free labels, you can look for almonds and almond products processed in dedicated gluten-free facilities. With dedicated production, there is no risk of cross-contamination from other gluten-containing grains.

Some almond brands like Blue Diamond Almonds specifically note their almond products are processed in dedicated gluten-free plants.

What About Almond Flour?

Almond flour is made from finely ground blanched almonds. It can be used as a gluten-free, grain-free flour substitute in cooking and baking.

Since almond flour comes straight from almonds, it does not naturally contain gluten. Make sure to use brands that are certified gluten-free or specifically produced in dedicated gluten-free facilities.

Some well-known gluten-free brands of almond flour include:

– Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Almond Flour
– Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour
– Wellbee’s Blanched Super Fine Almond Flour
– Organic Blanched Almond Flour

Be aware that almond flour is more prone to cross-contamination issues compared to plain whole almonds. The extensive grinding increases risk of contact with sources of gluten. Check labels carefully and look for gluten-free reassurance.

What About Flavored & Smoked Almonds?

Plain raw or roasted almonds are inherently gluten-free. But what about the flavored and smoked varieties?

Flavored almonds are typically coated with seasonings or oils. These coatings could potentially contain gluten, especially if they include wheat-based ingredients like soy sauce.

Likewise, almonds smoked over wood chips may pick up traces of gluten if the same smoker is used for gluten-containing grains.

To be safe, choose flavored and smoked almonds that are specifically labeled gluten-free. Reputable brands like Blue Diamond test the finished products to verify no gluten cross-contact.

Some gluten-free flavored almonds include:

– Blue Diamond Habanero BBQ Almonds
– Blue Diamond Jalapeño Smokehouse Almonds
– Blue Diamond Cinnamon Brown Sugar Almonds
– Wonderful Roasted & Salted Pistachios, Almonds & Pepitas

If in doubt, stick to plain raw or roasted almonds which are guaranteed gluten-free. You can always add your own gluten-free spices at home.

What About Almond Extract?

Almond extract provides concentrated almond flavoring to foods and drinks without needing to use as many almonds. It’s made by soaking almonds in alcohol to extract the oils and aromas.

Pure almond extract that only contains almonds and alcohol is gluten-free. Avoid brands with added fillers that could contain gluten.

Some gluten-free almond extract brands include:

– Nielsen-Massey Pure Almond Extract
– McCormick Pure Almond Extract
– Watkins Almond Extract

However, imitation almond extract contains very little real almonds. The “natural flavors” are typically derived from wheat or barley which are gluten grains. Always stick to pure almond extract labeled gluten-free.

What About Bitter Almond Extract?

Bitter almond extract comes from a different type of almond called bitter almonds. It provides a more pronounced almond flavor compared to regular sweet almond extract.

Since it’s derived from almonds, pure bitter almond extract free of gluten-based fillers is also gluten-free. But it’s only available for commercial use due to toxicity concerns.

Instead, consumer bottles labeled “bitter almond extract” are made from regular sweet almonds and synthetic benzaldehyde for bitterness. If gluten-free, they can be used on a gluten-free diet. But always check the label.

Can You Eat Almond Beverages?

Almond milk and other almond-based beverages are considered gluten-free as long as they don’t contain added sources of gluten.

Some examples of gluten-free almond milks include:

– Silk Almond Milk Original
– Califia Farms Unsweetened Almond Milk
– Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Milk
– Elmhurst Milked Almonds Original

Just check the ingredients since some flavors may contain wheat-derived ingredients like maltodextrin. The label should state if the product is gluten-free.

Also look for almond beverages made in dedicated gluten-free facilities. Cross-contamination is less likely but still possible during almond milk production.

Almond yogurt is typically made from almond milk so plain unsweetened varieties from gluten-free brands will be gluten-free. But flavors may contain added gluten so always check.

Are Almond Spreads & Butters Gluten-Free?

Almond butter and almond spreads are made by finely grinding almonds into paste, sometimes with added oils or spices.

Pure almond butter containing 100% almonds is gluten-free. Leading brands of gluten-free almond butter include:

– MaraNatha All Natural Almond Butter, Creamy
– Artisana Raw Almond Butter
– Justin’s Classic Almond Butter

Flavored almond spreads may have added ingredients and oils that could contain gluten. Check the labels for gluten-free status.

Also consider potential cross-contact with gluten during manufacturing. Look for dedicated production or gluten-free certification for safest choices.

What About Packaged Snacks & Trails Mixes?

Many packaged snacks and trail mixes contain almonds but also other ingredients and grains. Some examples include:

– Trail mixes with wheat-based ingredients (bran, crackers)
– Granola with barley malt or regular oats
– Nut bars with gluten-containing binders or fillers
– Chocolates with barley malt, cookies crumbs, etc

Always thoroughly read the label of any packaged snack product. Avoid ingredients like wheat, barley, rye, malt, and regular ungluten oats.

Some gluten-free almond snacks include:

– Kind Gluten Free Almond & Coconut Bar
– Enjoy Life Plentils Crunchy Baked Lentil & Almond Snack
– MadeGood Classic Granola Minis, Almond Butter flavor

Or choose plain roasted, flavored, or smoked almonds from gluten-free brands. Add your own gluten-free mix-ins.

Are Almonds Safe for a Wheat Allergy?

Almonds are safe for those with a wheat allergy. A wheat allergy is different from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

People with a wheat allergy react to the proteins in wheat. Almonds are from an entirely different botanical family so they do not trigger an immune reaction or wheat allergy symptoms.

However, those with a wheat allergy are still at risk if almonds are cross-contaminated with wheat. To be safe, choose almonds from dedicated gluten-free facilities that avoid wheat contact.

Can You Eat Almonds on a Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, or Paleo Diet?

Yes, almonds can be included in several special diets:

Gluten-Free Diet

Since almonds are naturally gluten-free, they are suitable for a gluten-free diet. Avoid potential cross-contamination by choosing certified gluten-free almonds and almond products.

Grain-Free Diet

Almonds are not considered a grain. They grow on trees and are classified as tree nuts. So almonds can be enjoyed as part of a grain-free diet.

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet avoids grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, and processed foods. Almonds fit into the Paleo framework as a nut that could have been eaten in the Paleolithic era.

Keto and Low Carb Diets

Almonds can also be included in low carb, ketogenic, and other low net carb diets in moderation. They are higher in fat and protein than carbs. Count net carbs when tracking almond intake.

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

Almonds provide a nutritious plant-based protein source for those following vegetarian and vegan eating patterns. Enjoy almonds and almond milk as gluten-free alternatives to meat and dairy.

Bottom Line

Almonds are naturally gluten-free, making them a safe and nutritious choice for anyone following a gluten-free diet provided steps are taken to avoid cross-contact with gluten. Look for certified gluten-free products made in dedicated facilities for the best quality gluten-free almonds and almond products.

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