Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley; in products made from these grains, such as barley malt and couscous; and in related "hybrid" grains like triticale and kamut. People with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or a wheat allergy suffer various symptoms when they consume foods containing gluten. Luckily, many foods are naturally gluten-free, and gluten-free substitutes for many grain products are becoming increasingly available.
Fruits and Vegetables
According to the Celiac Sprue Association, in their natural state, all fruits and nongrain vegetables are gluten- and wheat-free. When buying whole, raw vegetables, remember to wash them thoroughly before eating in case they have come in contact with a product containing wheat or gluten. If you're buying frozen or canned vegetables or fruit, read the ingredients list to ensure that the package contains nothing but the fruit or vegetable and perhaps water. If you're buying sweetened canned fruit, make sure the sweetener does not contain barley malt or maltodextrin, as these sweeteners may contain gluten.
Plain milk from cows, goats, or sheep is gluten-free in its natural state; any wheat or gluten eaten by the animals is not transferred to their milk, says Celiac.com. When buying butter, yogurt, or ice cream, however, check the label for barley malt or maltodextrin, which may be used as sweeteners.
Although most hard cheeses are gluten-free, it always pays to check the label. Aged cheeses such as Roquefort or Stilton are often "aged" using bread mold as a starter, and the bread mold may contain enough wheat or gluten to sicken someone sensitive to these ingredients.
Meat, Poultry and Fish
Fresh beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and fish are naturally gluten-free, according to Celiac.com. To keep these foods safe for people sensitive to wheat and gluten, wash them carefully in running water before cooking, and do not let them come into contact with any wheat- or gluten-containing product. Use a separate pan, cutting board, utensils, and cooking oil to cook these items, so you don't risk cross-contamination from crumbs or flour dust.
Packaged meats, poultry, and fish, as well as restaurant entrees, are frequently covered with breadcrumbs or with a flour-containing sauce, both of which contain wheat and gluten. Buy fresh whenever possible, and read packages carefully. If you're dining out, Glutenfree.com recommends asking the chef to prepare your meat, poultry, or fish without seasonings or sauces and in cooking oil that has not been used on wheat- or gluten-containing foods.
Beans, Nuts, and Seeds
Raw beans, nuts, and seeds are wheat-free and gluten-free, according to the Celiac Sprue Association. Read packages carefully, however, on canned beans and roasted nuts or seeds; these may contain wheat, barley, or rye, or products derived from them. If a package of nuts or seeds says it was packaged in a factory that also handles gluten-containing products, consider skipping it.
Although wheat, barley, rye, spelt, triticale, and kamut all contain gluten and should be avoided, many whole grains exist that are wheat- and gluten-free, according to the Celiac Sprue Association. Corn, rice, tapioca, and quinoa are popular gluten-free substitutes, as are some starchy foods, such as potatoes and spaghetti squash.
According to the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, if you are particularly sensitive to wheat or gluten, you may wish to avoid oats entirely. While evidence suggests you may be able to tolerate oats, they may be cross-contaminated if processed in a facility that also processes wheat. If you decide to add oats to your diet, take special care to be certain that the oats you eat are harvested on dedicated equipment and are certified gluten-free. Both of these conditions should be noted on the label. Most oats are harvested on equipment that also harvests wheat, which allows enough wheat to mix with the oats to cause problems for many wheat- and gluten-sensitive people.