Are Regular and Flavored Milks Gluten-Free?

Plain milk is gluten-free and safe to drink.
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With almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk and coconut milk on the scene, you may not even remember what dairy milk tastes like.

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But for those who continue to rely on it for their coffee and cereal, know that plain cow's milk is usually free of gluten and safe to drink on a gluten-free diet. However, before you add flavored milks to your fridge, make sure to read the label and verify it's gluten-free.

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Milk Is Usually Gluten-Free

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and these grains' derivatives.

As milk comes from cows and doesn't contain any gluten grains, it's generally gluten-free and safe to drink — whether you choose whole milk, non-fat, 2 percent or another variety, according to Beyond Celiac.

As with all food products, milk can also be exposed to gluten-containing ingredients either during preparation or during manufacturing, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. So, if you're at a restaurant, you'll want to verify that the glass of milk you order is served in a clean glass that wasn't exposed to gluten.

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When buying gluten-free milk products at the supermarket, check the container for a gluten-free label, which means it contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten and is safe for consumption, according to the FDA.

In some cases, milk products 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 has even more stringent standards. Foods and drinks certified by the GFCO contain less than 10 ppm of gluten.

The Issue With Secondary Lactose Intolerance

Although milk is gluten-free, those newly diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may also experience secondary lactose intolerance, per Beyond Celiac. Gluten can cause damage in the small intestine, causing a temporary lack of lactase for those with gluten intolerance.

Gluten-Free Flavored Milk

While plain milk is almost always gluten-free, the same isn't necessarily true for flavored milk beverages or milk products, according to Beyond Celiac.

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Added flavorings and ingredients can pose a problem, so it's important to read the ingredient list thoroughly before you enjoy it.

Gluten-Free Flavored Milk Brands

  • Nesquik:​ Nesquik offers a variety of gluten-free ready-to-drink flavored milk beverages, according to the company's site. The Low-Fat Chocolate, Double Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla and Banana Strawberry are all safe to drink.
  • Hershey's:​ Hershey's chocolate milk is gluten-free, and so is its cocoa powder and chocolate syrup.
  • Darigold:​ Darigold makes only a few flavored milks. The company's Low-Fat 1% Chocolate Milk is labeled gluten-free, however, the Old Fashioned might not be, according to the company's site.

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Tip

Avoid all malted milk drinks and products. Malt and malted drinks are often made with barley, which means they won't be safe to drink or eat. So, next time you're buying flavored milks or milkshakes, make sure to look at all the ingredients first.

Is Grass-Fed Milk Better on a Gluten-Free Diet?

Chances are, the milk you're buying is free of any added gluten ingredients. However, in many cases, the dairy cows producing your milk may be fed gluten-based grains, which are more common on feedlots.

Although there's no firm evidence that traces of these grains can be found in the milk you're drinking, those with extreme sensitivities may want to opt for grass-fed milk, recommends the Gluten-Free Society.

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