There's a reason most people celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and promotions with sweet treats: Sugar is just so darn good.
Whether you're a fan of baking cakes in your home or just sweetening your coffee, sugar is common in day-to-day use. Luckily for those following a gluten-free diet, sugar (and most alternatives) are free of gluten.
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Is White Sugar Gluten-Free?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and these grains' derivatives.
When it comes to the many marvelous types of grains, knowing which varieties do and don't contain gluten can be tricky. But sugar comes from the sugar cane plant, which is naturally gluten-free, according to the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture.
So in its natural form, sugar is gluten-free. But sugar can be exposed to gluten-containing ingredients either during preparation or manufacturing, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. Or, at a cafe, your sugar may be poured into a container that formerly held a gluten ingredient — so it's probably safest to stick with packets.
When buying sugar, check the packaging to make sure it's safe from cross-contamination. If your package is labeled gluten-free, that means it contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, which is a safe amount for people with celiac disease, according to the FDA.
In some cases, the sugar you buy may even have a Certified Gluten-Free seal on the package. In that case, the product has been tested by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), which follows even more stringent standards. Any foods certified by the GFCO contain less than 10 ppm of gluten, according to the GFCO.
Gluten-Free White Sugar
Is Brown Sugar Gluten-Free?
Generally, brown sugar is another naturally gluten-free sugar that you can feel free to sprinkle onto your oatmeal. This sugar is produced a little differently, however, which is why it gets a deep, rich color.
Brown sugar is made by either boiling brown sugar syrup or by mixing white sugar with molasses (a product that can come from sugarcane), according to the Sugar Association. So, although it may vary in color from other forms of sugar, brown sugar is generally safe to eat on a gluten-free diet.
As with white sugar, though, you'll want to choose a brown sugar package that either has a Gluten-Free label or a Certified Gluten-Free label.
At a cafe or restaurant, avoid using brown sugar straight from a container and opt for a sugar packet instead, to avoid potential cross-contact.
Gluten-Free Brown Sugar
Are Artificial Sweeteners Gluten-Free?
There's no shortage of artificial sweeteners on the market, especially considering so many processed foods, like diet beverages and sugar-free candy, contain them. But most artificial sweeteners are gluten-free, according to Gluten-Free Society.
Also known as intense sweeteners, these popular sugar replacements are often used i baking. Although the actual sweetening ingredient is known as saccharin, popular name brands include Sweet'N Low, Sweet Twin and Necta Sweet, according to the FDA.
Gluten-Free Artificial Sweeteners
Is Stevia Gluten-Free?
For those who like to avoid artificial sweeteners, natural sugar substitutes — such as stevia — are a popular alternative.
Stevia sweetener comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, according to the Mayo Clinic. Aside from the potential risk of cross-contact in manufacturing, stevia is gluten-free.
This sugar substitute is calorie-free and can be found in several forms, like granules or syrups.
Gluten-Free Sugar Substitutes
- American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture: "Where Does Sugar Come From?"
- Celiac Disease Foundation: "Sources of Gluten"
- FDA: "Gluten and Food Labeling"
- GFCO: "About Us"
- Sugar Association: "Types of Sugar"
- Gluten-Free Society: "Toxic Sweeteners – Gluten Free But Not Good For You"
- FDA: "Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for Use in Food in the United States"
- Mayo Clinic: "What is Stevia? I've Heard It's Good for Weight Control."