Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale and oats. In some people, eating or drinking anything containing gluten can cause an unpleasant reaction. This is known as non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance. Following a gluten-free diet will help.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale and oats. In some people, eating or drinking anything containing gluten can cause different types of undesirable reactions. The most extreme of these is the auto-immune condition known as coeliac disease. Some other types of reactions are known as non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance. Gluten sensitivity is different from wheat allergy.
People with coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity show improvement when they follow a gluten-free diet.
Foods that contain gluten
Some foods that may contain gluten include:
- cereal and baking products – wheat, wheaten cornflour, semolina, couscous, wheat bran, barley, oats, porridge, breakfast cereals containing wheat, rye, oats or barley, corn or rice cereals containing malt extract from barley, some icing sugar mixtures and some baking powders
- pasta and noodles – spaghetti, pasta, lasagne, gnocchi, hokkien noodles, soba noodles and two-minute noodles
- bread, cakes and biscuits – all bread, cakes and biscuits prepared with flours from a gluten source
- meat products – any products prepared with breadcrumbs or batter, sausages and other processed meats or smallgoods (unless labelled gluten free), thickened soups, meat pies and frozen meals
- dairy products – malted milk, ice cream in a cone and some soy milks
- fruits and vegetables – textured vegetable protein (found in some vegetarian products) and fruit-pie filling
- condiments – malt vinegar, some mustards, relishes, pickles, salad dressings, sauces, gravy and yeast extract from barley
- snacks – liquorice, some lollies and chocolates, packet savoury snacks and some flavoured potato chips and corn chips
- drinks – coffee substitutes made from cereal, and some milk-drink powders
- alcoholic drinks – beer, stout, ale, Guinness and lager (most beers contain gluten, but a range of gluten-free boutique beers are now available in Australia).
Despite the restrictions, a person with gluten sensitivity can still enjoy a wide and varied diet. It is important to read the labels of all packaged or prepared foods.
Some gluten-free foods that people with gluten sensitivity can enjoy include:
- meat products – unprocessed meat, fish, chicken, bacon, ham off the bone and meats that are frozen or canned, but with no sauce
- dairy products – eggs, full-cream milk, low-fat milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, fresh cream, processed or block cheese, and some custards and soy milks
- fruits and vegetables – fresh, canned or frozen (but not sauced), fruit juices, nuts and peanut butter
- cereal and baking products – corn (maize) flour, soya flour, lentil flour, rice (all types), rice flour, rice bran, potato flour, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, breakfast cereals made from corn and rice, without malt extract from barley, polenta and psyllium
- bread, cakes and biscuits – most rice crackers, corn cakes, rice crispbreads, corn tortillas and corn taco shells
- pasta and noodles – gluten-free pasta, rice noodles, rice or bean vermicelli and 100 per cent buckwheat noodles
- condiments – tomato paste, tahini, jam, honey, maple syrup, cocoa, all kinds of vinegars (except malt), some sauces and some salad dressings
- snacks – plain chips and corn chips, popcorn and plain chocolate
- drinks – tea, coffee, mineral water, wine, spirits and liqueurs.
Gluten-free cereal products
Naturally gluten-free cereal products that can be enjoyed include:
- chestnut flour
- coconut flour
- cornflour (from maize)
- corn tortillas
- lentil flour
- millet meal
- pappadums (most types)
- potato flour
- rice (any kind)
- rice bran
- rice flour
- rice vermicelli
- soy flour
Specially made gluten-free products
You can buy commercially prepared gluten-free products, including:
- breakfast cereals
- baking mixes
- muesli bars and other snack bars
Food labelling and gluten
All packaged foods have ingredient labels printed on the box, package or bottle. There are four methods of finding suitable gluten-free foods, which include:
- foods that are naturally gluten free, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, and fresh unprocessed meats
- foods carrying the Crossed Grain endorsement logo
- foods labelled ‘gluten free’
- foods made for the general market that are gluten free by ingredient.
There is an Australian Food Standard for processed foods labelled ‘gluten free’. When foods are tested using the prescribed test, there must be ‘no detectable gluten’. Currently, this test is sensitive to 0.0003 per cent (three parts per million).
Suggestions about gluten-free cooking
Contact your state coeliac organisation or talk to a dietitian about recommended gluten-free recipe books. As a general rule, use new releases, as older books may contain outdated dietary information.
In some cases, you can change existing recipes for cakes and biscuits to make them gluten free. Because gluten is the ingredient in wheat that helps the cooked product to hold together, you will need to use some other types of binding agents.
- Be prepared to experiment and accept that a few of your first attempts may be unsuccessful.
- Replace the role of gluten with xanthan gum or guar gum powders. (The general proportions for using these gums are 1/2 teaspoon for a family-sized cake and 1 tablespoon for bread). These products are available from some state coeliac organisations, health-food stores and some supermarkets. Using gelatine and psyllium husks can also help.
- Add an extra egg to pancake batters.
Make your own flour
There are many recipes available for gluten-free flour substitutes, or you can buy ready-made gluten-free flour mixes, pastry and baking powder.
One recipe for plain flour involves mixing together:
- 6 cups rice flour
- 2 cups potato starch
- 1 cup gluten-free cornflour.
- 1/4 cup bicarbonate soda
- 1/2 cup cream of tartar.
- 60 g maize cornflour
- 3/4 cup milk powder
- 1 1/2 cups coconut
- 120 g melted butter.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Dietitians Association of Australia Tel. 1800 812 942
- Coeliac Australia Tel. 1300 458 836
Things to remember
- Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale and oats.
- In some people, eating or drinking anything containing gluten can cause an undesirable reaction known as gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity.
- Gluten sensitivity is different from coeliac disease, even though some of the symptoms are the same.
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Last reviewed: May 2011
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