• Jasmine Blake Hollywood, MS, HHP

What is Gluten? Gluten-Free Foods List

Updated: Mar 30, 2020


What is the Gluten Protein?


In plants, there are three parts to whole grain. These parts are called the bran, the endosperm, and the germ (embryo). The bran contains some vitamins and fiber. The embryo contains some vitamins, fats, proteins, and minerals. Also, the embryo is the part of the plant that will grow into stems, leaves, and roots. The endosperm contains carbohydrates and proteins, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

The endosperm acts as a storage for food. In grains, gluten is one kind of protein. It is located in the endosperm area of a developing plant embryo. During manufacturing, the grain is processed into flour. The embryo and the bran are stripped away, along with all their nutrients. This process leaves only the endosperm. The only things remaining are the carbohydrates and the gluten protein.


Gluten in Food


Gluten is a substance we all commonly know. It is found in many foods we eat like cereal and grains. It is what adds shape to bread, cakes, and tortillas when baking; and holds the formation of these food items together. This reason is that gluten is responsible for the elasticity of the dough. Without gluten things like cake, pie, donuts, bread, croissants, and muffins would not exist in their puffy form. While most people love eating these items, it is good to be to know if a food product does contain gluten.

People can tell if a product has gluten because when they eat it, it will feel soft like bread, or chewy and gooey like a tortilla. Food items without gluten are different. Food products without gluten are considered gluten-free. When eating them, they feel harder in texture, are often crumbly when we touch them, and most gluten-free food items cannot stay together for long. [1]. Some people can tell by eating food products whether the product has gluten in it or not. Some people cannot tell. Others, whether they know the difference or not, prefer to know precisely which types of grains contain the gluten protein.

How to Recognize Gluten Containing Foods


Since recognizing gluten is not so easy, and gluten is found in many types of grains, knowing the types of grains that contain it is a good source of information. Wheat is the number one grain that contains gluten. It is loaded with gluten proteins. Gluten is also in barley, rye, triticale (which is a cross between barley and rye), and other several other grains. Recognizing gluten is often hard, and becoming educated on which products and foods have gluten is vital. A quick and easy way to know if a person is eating gluten is knowing the names of the grains that are out in the market.


Different types of grains with gluten are:

  • Spelt

  • Triticale

  • Semolina

  • Kamut

  • Durum

  • Wheat

  • Rye

  • Barley

  • Couscous

  • Bulgur

  • Einkorn wheat

  • Emmer wheat

  • Farro

  • Farina


It is essential to know that not all foods in grocery stores that are labeled “Gluten-Free” are actually gluten-free. Although this is not entirely federally regulated yet, there are methods for figuring out how to tell if a product is truly gluten-free or fraudulent. Any label with food in the above list and any label that says “bran germ” is considered to be a product that contains gluten. Also, any of these could be listed under the "ingredients" section on a food label. This means there is gluten in the product. Additionally, any food label that claims to have a gluten-free product should have a United States Department of Agriculture stamp on it. Anything without the "USDA gluten-free" stamp is considered NOT legit.


What is Cross Contact?


Although a person can learn to identify and recognize gluten, other non-gluten-containing products can have gluten residue in them. This process is called cross-contact. Cross contact is when the particle of one thing is rubbed onto another thing, and its food particles mix. This type of contact can happen in a restaurant, supermarket, or a manufacturing plant. Food products like oats and other grains could have gluten particles on them if they get produced in the same factory. Also, if eating out and a product with gluten is made, and the surface is not sanitized and cleaned before making the next food product, gluten could transfer to that food. These foods listed below are considered non-gluten-containing foods, but people should still do their research on where these foods were manufactured before purchasing them. As well, people should ensure that these foods are made safely during prepared food purchases.


The list is as follows:

  • Oats

  • Rice (brown, white, and wild)

  • Indian Rice Grass

  • Cornmeal, corn products

  • Potato flakes

  • Dried Beans

  • Legumes

  • Amaranth

  • Arrowroot

  • Millet

  • Sorghum

  • Quinoa

  • Buckwheat

  • Kasha

  • Tef/teff

Foods NOT Allowed when Following a Gluten-Free Diet

Grains such as:

  • Spelt

  • Triticale

  • Semolina

  • Kamut

  • Durum

  • Wheat

  • Rye

  • Barley

  • Couscous

  • Bulgur

  • Einkorn wheat

  • Emmer wheat

  • Farro

  • Farina

Gluten-Free Foods with labels without the Federal Stamp and Other Products such as:

  • Wheat Flour, Self Rising Flour, Graham Flour, or Enriched Wheat Flour