An estimated 4 to 8 percent of children and 2 percent of adults have diagnosed food allergies, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Wheat is one of the eight foods associated with 90 percent of food allergies. When you have a wheat allergy, your immune system perceives wheat as toxic and triggers adverse symptoms, such as swelling, hives and breathing difficulties, upon its ingestion. Fortunately, numerous grains and grain-containing foods suit a wheat-free diet.
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Wheat is one of numerous whole grains. Some of the more obvious sources of wheat include wheat bread, whole wheat bread and cereals, crackers and baked goods that list wheat or wheat flour as an ingredient. Wheat and its derivatives are also present in various less apparent grain products. To ensure that wheat is not contained in commercial foods, the Cleveland Clinic recommends checking ingredient lists and avoiding items that list potential wheat sources, such as high-protein flour, bran, graham flour, bulgur, farina, wheat gluten, durum, semolina, wheat malt, starch and modified starch. Many breads, cereals, baking mixes, couscous, pasta, soup mixes and even meat marinades contain these ingredients. Most pastry, white, baking and bread flours also derive from wheat.
Naturally wheat-free grains include barley, rice, oats, corn and rye. Unprocessed whole grains, such as brown rice, wild rice, rye flakes and air-popped popcorn, are particularly safe bets because they contain no added ingredients. Grain products, such as breads, cereals and pasta derived from wheat-free grains may still contain sources of wheat. When purchasing breads and other prepared foods, look for a "wheat free" label for ensured safety and wellness. Many health food and grocery stores sell wheat-free rice bread, corn, oat and rice-based cereals, cookies, cake mixes and crackers devoid of wheat.
If you are allergic not only to wheat but also to gluten -- a storage protein found in wheat, barley and rye -- you'll need to avoid all gluten, rye, barley and wheat-containing foods. In this case, look for foods labeled "gluten free." Foods that contain gluten but not necessarily wheat include bouillon, some blue cheese and oatmeal varieties, malted milk, brown rice syrup and spelt, which is found in various breads, pasta and crackers. MayoClinic.com recommends taking caution when dining out; your restaurant server may not realize that wheat is prevalent in a broad variety of foods. Rather than simply stating your wheat allergy, provide a list of "hidden" wheat sources or stick to simple foods, such as vegetables, fruits, fish, meat and milk.
Learning to prepare wheat-free foods can add enjoyment to your lifestyle and allow you to consume a wide variety of foods. Wheat and white flour can often be substituted by soy, rice, corn, coconut or almond-based flour in breads, crackers, cakes and pie crust recipes. MayoClinic.com recommends consulting wheat-free cookbooks, which offer suggestions specific to people with wheat allergies.