Are Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Gluten-Free?

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are gluten-free except for seasonal shaped items and unwrapped minis. While an array of other candy varieties are gluten-free as well, many others aren't.

Reese's Eggs aren't gluten-free.
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All of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are gluten-free with the exception of unwrapped minis and seasonal shaped candies. Reese's Eggs aren't gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Candy

How do you know if a candy is gluten-free? Beyond Celiac and the Celiac Disease Foundation put out lists of gluten-free candy on their websites. You can also check Hershey's gluten-free list. Some manufacturers may not publish a list, but you can contact them directly.

Another way to check whether a candy contains gluten involves reading the label carefully. It can, however, be hard to recognize gluten-free ingredients. Most people know to look for the gluten-containing grains of wheat, rye and barley; but sometimes wheat is called other names. In addition, a candy may contain malt vinegar or a protein derivative of a taboo grain.

Reese's Pieces are all gluten-free except for the Eggs, reports the Celiac Disease Foundation. To name only a few, other gluten-free candies include Hershey's Milk Chocolate Kisses, Snickers Bars, Milky Way Caramel Bars (not the original Milky Way Bars), Tootsie Rolls, M&Ms (except pretzels and seasonal items), Butterfingers, Jelly Belly Beans and some varieties of York Peppermint Patties, says Beyond Celiac. Ring Pops are free of gluten as well.

The lists of gluten-free candy include many exceptions among very similar products put out by the same company. Also, a company will sometimes make a candy gluten-free in one size while making other sizes of the same candy gluten-containing. When checking the gluten-free lists, be careful to note all the exceptions.

Healthy Alternative to Candy

Even if a candy is gluten-free, that doesn't mean it's a healthy treat or dessert. A look at Reese's Peanut Butter Cups' ingredients on the USDA Branded Foods Database shows the package of candy has 210 calories, 13 grams of fat and 21 grams of sugar. It also contains peanuts, which are an allergen. Most other candy varieties are also high in calories, fat and sugar.

Fruit is a deliciously sweet treat that is naturally gluten-free. It's also rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Consider exchanging candy for fruit when it comes to daily snacking and saving the candy for an occasional indulgence.

Read more: Can You Eat Chocolate on a Gluten-Free Diet?

Gluten-Free Diet Purposes

The gluten-free diet doesn't contain the protein gluten, which is found in barley, rye, wheat and a cross between rye and wheat called triticale, says the Mayo Clinic. Excluding gluten is needed to manage the symptoms of various conditions, primary of which is celiac disease. In this disorder, gluten triggers an immune system response that harms the small intestine. Over time, the adverse effects prevent the absorption of nutrients in food.

An eating plan that excludes gluten is also used to treat non-celiac gluten intolerance. This disorder causes some of the same symptoms of celiac disease, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, bloating and "foggy brain." It differs in one important way in that it doesn't damage the small intestine.

A gluten-free diet is also used to manage wheat allergy. In this condition, the immune system responds to gluten or another protein in wheat as if it's a virus or bacteria. It manifests as breathing difficulties, congestion and other symptoms, notes the Mayo Clinic.

Gluten-Free Diet Explained

Many healthy foods are gluten-free in their natural state, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. These include fruits, vegetables, dairy products, fish, seafood, beans, nuts, poultry and meat.

A variety of grains are gluten-free. Rice and corn are available in supermarkets, but others, such as millet, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth, are found in health food and specialty stores. More options include flax, teff and gluten-free oats.

Research indicates that some gluten-free grains are contaminated with gluten-containing grains during harvesting. If you're concerned, buy only grains tested for gluten that show they have less than 20 parts per million.

Most breads, crackers, pastas and cereals contain gluten. When shopping, remember that a "wheat-free" label doesn't necessarily mean the product is gluten-free. Oats are easily contaminated with gluten-containing grains, so look for oats labeled gluten-free, says the Celiac Disease Foundation.

Gluten is found in foods that you wouldn't associate with grains. It's in soups and sauces and may also be present in processed fruits and vegetables, such as frozen french fries, and in smoothies and dried fruits.

Other food sources of gluten include gravies, salad dressings, seasoning mixes, hot dogs and some candy, notes the Mayo Clinic. Gluten is even contained in some nutritional supplements, toothpaste and natural food flavorings, states Harvard Health.

Read more: 15 Unexpected Foods That Contain Gluten

Many beverages, including juices and sodas, are gluten-free. Wine is generally gluten-free, but some varieties contain unsafe amounts of gluten. Beer and malt vinegar aren't free of gluten.

Gluten-Free Diet Downsides

Following the gluten-free diet is critically important for people with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders, but it has become popular to go gluten-free in an attempt to boost energy, lose weight and enhance health. Harvard Health states that unless individuals are sensitive to gluten, most will likely not receive a significant benefit from the eating plan. Very little research has been done to investigate these purported benefits.

Because gluten is a part of so many products, it's challenging to follow the diet. Many products labeled "gluten-free" are also expensive.

One key problem associated with the gluten-free diet is the potential for nutritional deficiencies. Whole wheat is a source of dietary fiber, a food constituent needed for regular bowel movements. It's possible to get enough fiber from fruits, vegetables and permitted grains like brown rice, so those on the diet should make an effort to eat these foods often, advises Harvard Health.

Most breads and cereals are fortified with certain nutrients, so they've become a main source of B vitamins. Breads made with gluten-free flours are appearing in stores more often, but they aren't fortified with vitamins. The problem is especially concerning for women of childbearing age, because vitamin B9 prevents birth defects.

Some processed gluten-free foods contain high amounts of unhealthy ingredients like sugar and fat, says the Mayo Clinic. Check the labels of such foods for calorie, salt and nutrient content.

Tips for Avoiding Gluten

When reading labels, some gluten-containing ingredients aren't obvious. Be aware of the different varieties of wheat such as einkorn, durum, emmer, spelt and kamut, recommends the Mayo Clinic.

Likewise, wheat flours have different names, but they all contain gluten: These include semolina, farina, self-rising flour, enriched flour and graham flour. If a label includes malt or brewer's yeast, it also contains gluten, says the Gluten Intolerance Group.

Look for a gluten-free label, because the Food and Drug Administration requires that these claims meet a clear standard. Another reliable sign to check for is a third-party gluten-free certification.

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