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Gluten’s Seven Secret Hiding Spots

Purging This Pesky Protein

Gluten is a protein found within the seeds of wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Gluten is also known as the “glue” in baked goods that holds them together, providing palatable elasticity and chewiness. A rapidly growing number of people in North America are being medically advised to avoid gluten for a variety of reasons, such as celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases, unexplained gluten sensitivity, autism, mental health issues, and the list goes on and on.

If you’re part of this increasing number of gluten avoiders, one thing you have likely learned about gluten is that it’s a pesky little protein that has a sneaky way of sticking around, even when it’s not wanted- sort of like that dinner guest who invited himself, and then overstayed his welcome. Gluten never ceases to amaze people with respect to where it can be found lurking.

To stop gluten from crossing your path, always read ingredient labels, and keep informed about the latest information and research regarding what is and is not safe. Health Canada requires 20 parts per million or less for gluten-free label claims; look for those claims on store-bought foods. Learn how to prevent and avoid gluten cross-contamination when dining at home, or when dining out. Keep up to date regarding gluten-free food recalls. Knowledge is your best defence when living gluten-free. A few online resources that provide such information include Gluten Free Watchdog’s glutenfreewatchdog.org, the Canadian Celiac Association’s celiac.ca and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s inspection.gc.ca.


Here’s a list of a few of gluten’s less conspicuous hiding places, so you can avoid it, and show the sticky stuff who’s boss!


1. Unsuspecting Flours – According to the Canadian Celiac Association and companies that test products for gluten, flours such as buckwheat flour (although wheat is in its name, buckwheat is gluten-free when not contaminated) and quinoa flour have both been found to be contaminated with gluten. Such findings may have to do with the way these flours are milled and processed in manufacturing facilities.

2. Soy Sauce and Tamari Sauce – Many soy and tamari sauces have wheat added to them, so be sure to always read the labels carefully.

3. Malt – Malt extract, malt syrup, malt vinegar, malted milk, and malt flavouring are all made from barley which contains gluten. Malt can be found in many foods, and has traditionally been added to foods to provide flavour, colour, sweetness, and to help foods retain their moisture. However, malt sugar (maltose), and maltilol (maltilol syrup) do not contain gluten.

4. Oats – Oats have been a very controversial grain for some time now. Oats tend to grow beside wheat in the fields, which puts oats at high risk of cross-contamination.  According to the Canadian Celiac Association (“CCA”), "consumption of pure, uncontaminated oats is safe in the amount of 1/2 – 3/4 cup dry rolled oats per day by adults, and 1/4 cup dry rolled oats by children with celiac disease.” The key here is to consume oats that are labelled as pure and uncontaminated, which would typically not grow near wheat.

5. Processed Foods – Processed foods including, but not limited to cereals, sausages, puddings, low fat dairy products, meat, fish, soups, gravies, sauces, imitation seafood, and chips may contain wheat based fillers. That may sound like just about everything on your grocery list, however, if you choose clean whole foods over processed foods, you will often avoid gluten, and you will embark on a healthier diet as well.

6. Breaded Fries – If the fries you are about to bite into look like they are coated in batter, then they probably contain wheat. Many restaurants and cafeterias continue to add a wheat-based breaded and flavoured coating to fries to make a crispier texture and fuller flavour.

7. Medications – Many medications contain starch-binding ingredients which may include wheat - this often comes as a surprise. It’s always wise to ask your health professional about the status of any medications you are prescribed. Your pharmacist should also be able to verify medication ingredients by referring to the Compendium of Pharmaceutical Specialties Guide.


For a more thorough list of foods to avoid when following a gluten-free diet, you can refer to the CCA’s compilation: www.celiac.ca/index.php/about-celiac-disease/what-not-to-eat. The CCA also offers a 60 page pocket dictionary that outlines ingredients that are and are not allowed when following a gluten-free diet. This booklet can come in very handy when grocery shopping.




Lisa Cantkier was medically diagnosed with celiac disease as a toddler. She enjoys researching and writing about celiac disease and gluten intolerance, and has a special interest in holistic nutrition. Lisa founded GlutenFreeFind.com- an online resource directory, to help others find useful information about gluten-free living.You can visit GlutenFreeFind.com on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.