What are 6 ingredients that a gluten diet should not consume?

A gluten-free diet means avoiding foods that contain gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, following a strict gluten-free diet is essential to manage symptoms and prevent complications. But even for those without a medical need to avoid gluten, cutting it out can provide relief from digestive issues.

When transitioning to a gluten-free diet, it’s important to learn which ingredients contain gluten so you know what to avoid. There are many healthy, naturally gluten-free foods to choose from like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, dairy products, beans and nuts. But there are also ingredients added to processed and packaged foods that may contain gluten.

Here are 6 key ingredients that need to be avoided on a gluten-free diet:

1. Wheat

Wheat is one of the main sources of gluten, along with barley and rye. That means any foods made with wheat, wheat flour or other wheat-based ingredients must be avoided. This includes bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods, cereals, wheat-based grains like bulgur and couscous, and more. Some ingredients to watch out for include:

– All-purpose flour
– Bread flour
– Cake flour
– Whole wheat flour
– Wheat bran
– Wheat germ
– Wheat starch
– Durum flour
– Einkorn
– Farina
– Graham flour
– Semolina
– Spelt

Oats are naturally gluten-free but are often contaminated with wheat during growing and processing. Look for labeled gluten-free oats if you want to include oatmeal or other oat-based foods in your diet.

2. Barley

Like wheat, barley contains gluten and must be avoided when following a gluten-free diet. Watch out for barley or barley malt in processed foods like soups, sauces, flavored rice mixes and salad dressings. Beverages like beer are also made from barley and are not gluten-free.

3. Rye

Rye is the third gluten-containing cereal grain, so it is off-limits on a gluten-free diet. Avoid rye bread, rye flour, rye flakes and other rye-based products.

Some common foods that may contain rye include:

– Rye bread
– Rye flour
– Rye crackers
– Rye pasta
– Rye beer
– Marble rye bread
– Pumpernickel bread
– Deli meats
– Sauces and gravies

4. Malt

Malt is a cereal grain that has been sprouted, dried and ground. It is commonly made from barley. Some types of malt to look out for in ingredient lists include:

– Malt
– Malt extract
– Malt flavoring
– Malt syrup or malt extract
– Barley malt
– Barley extract

You may find malt ingredients in baking mixes, cereals, crackers, desserts, candy and beverages. Vinegars, soy sauce and other condiments can also contain malt.

5. Soy Sauce

Many soy sauces contain wheat, even if they are labeled as gluten-free. That’s because wheat is often used in the fermentation process. Tamari is a wheat-free soy sauce that contains just soybeans, salt and water. Look for tamari or soy sauces certified gluten-free if you want to enjoy this condiment.

6. Beer

All beer contains gluten because it is brewed from grains containing gluten, usually barley or sometimes wheat. There are some gluten-free beers made from grains like sorghum, buckwheat and rice. But generally, regular beer, ales, lagers and malt beverages are off limits when eating gluten-free. Hard ciders, wines and distilled liquors like rum, vodka and gin are gluten-free alternatives if you want an alcoholic beverage.

Other Problematic Ingredients

In addition to the top 6 gluten-containing ingredients covered already, there are a few other ingredients those following a gluten-free diet should watch out for:

Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)

HVP is a flavor enhancer sometimes derived from wheat. It’s found in packaged foods like soups, sauces and frozen meals.

Modified Food Starch

Starches are sometimes used to thicken or stabilize processed foods. The source isn’t always labeled so it could come from wheat. Modified food starch is considered risky unless the packaging specifies a gluten-free source like corn, potato, tapioca or rice.


Dextrin is used as a thickening agent and can be derived from wheat. It may be found in baking mixes, gravy, ketchup and other sauces.

Caramel Color

Caramel color is made from corn but sometimes processed with barley enzymes. It’s used to color foods like sodas, candy and cereals. Caramel color is only considered gluten-free if it’s specifically labeled as such.

Natural Flavors

Natural and artificial flavors are never named specifically. They may come from gluten-containing grains like barley or wheat. Opt for products with flavors derived from fruits, vegetables, spices, vinegar or fermentation instead.

Gluten-Free Grains and Starches

While gluten-containing ingredients like wheat must be avoided, there are plenty of nutritious gluten-free grain and starch alternatives like:

– Rice
– Corn
– Quinoa
– Buckwheat
– Amaranth
– Teff
– Arrowroot
– Tapioca
– Cassava
– Nut flours like almond and coconut flour
– Beans and legumes like chickpeas, lentils and black beans

Choose gluten-free whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat for the most nutrients. You can use gluten-free flours, starches and grains to make your favorite baked goods gluten-free. Just look for recipes that are formulated to work well without gluten.

Navigating Processed Foods

Following a gluten-free diet gets tricky when looking at packaged and processed foods. Even if something seems like it should be gluten-free, cross-contamination can occur or ingredients derived from gluten grains may be used. Here are some tips:

– Get familiar with the major sources of gluten like wheat, barley and rye. Also watch out for malt, brewer’s yeast, triticale, farro and anything malt-related.

– Carefully read the entire ingredients list and look for any problematic ingredients. Put the product back if you see anything questionable.

– Look for a “gluten-free” label on the packaging. This means the product has been tested to verify it meets the FDA requirements for gluten-free of less than 20 parts per million.

– If a product is labeled “wheat-free” but not “gluten-free” it may still contain barley or rye. Only trust the “gluten-free” label.

– Call the manufacturer if you have any questions or concerns about ingredients or labeling. Many have helpful customer service teams and allergen information readily available.

– Stick to naturally gluten-free whole foods like produce, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans and gluten-free grains whenever possible. These basic foods don’t require scrutinizing labels.

Avoiding Cross-Contamination

You also have to watch out for cross-contamination when cooking and eating gluten-free. Even tiny crumbs or traces of gluten can cause issues for those who are highly sensitive. Here are some tips to avoid cross-contamination:

– Have separate toasters and pots/pans for gluten-free cooking. Do not use the same ones used for gluten-containing foods.

– Never slice gluten-free bread on a surface where regular bread was prepared unless it has been thoroughly cleaned first. Use a separate cutting board if possible.

– Gluten-free grains and flours should be stored separately, not just on a different shelf but ideally in an airtight container in a different cabinet or pantry.

– When baking at home, carefully clean all work surfaces and equipment after making anything with gluten. Wash hands thoroughly before preparing gluten-free items.

– At restaurants, verify ingredients with the staff and request a change of gloves or utensils if needed. Avoid deep-fried foods as they often share fryers.

– Look for restaurants and brands that are certified gluten-free. This reduces the risk of cross-contamination.

Including Plenty of Nutrients

One final consideration when eating gluten-free is making sure you get adequate nutrients like fiber, iron, folate, thiamin, niacin and B vitamins that can be lacking when you cut out whole grains that contain gluten. Here are some tips:

– Eat potatoes, sweet potatoes, yuca and Winter squash which are naturally gluten-free whole foods that offer carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

– Choose enriched gluten-free grains and breads.

– Eat lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, dairy, fish and lean meat & poultry.

– Consider a multivitamin or specific supplements like iron if deficiencies are a concern.

– Work with a dietitian knowledgeable in gluten-free diets to help create a healthy and balanced eating plan.

Sample Gluten-Free Meal Plan

Here is a sample one day gluten-free meal plan:

Meal Foods
Breakfast Gluten-free oatmeal cooked in dairy or non-dairy milk, topped with walnuts and fruit
Snack Sliced apple with natural peanut or almond butter
Lunch Tuna salad with chickpeas over mixed greens, oil and vinegar dressing
Snack Popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast
Dinner Grilled salmon, roasted potatoes and asparagus
Dessert Greek yogurt topped with crushed berries

As you can see, it’s possible to eat nutritious and delicious gluten-free meals. With some adjustments to avoid problem ingredients, you can craft a diet optimal for your health if you choose to go gluten-free.


Following a strict gluten-free diet means avoiding all foods and ingredients containing the protein gluten. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, this is the only way to manage symptoms. The top 6 ingredients to avoid are wheat, barley, rye, malt, soy sauce and beer. Watch out for other problematic ingredients too like hydrolyzed vegetable protein, modified food starch and questionable flavorings. Stick to naturally gluten-free whole foods and choose gluten-free packaged products carefully. With some adjustments, it’s possible to eat healthy, balanced gluten-free meals.

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