Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD
Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and numerous other foods containing or made from these ingredients. Gluten can also be found in many nonfood items, such as medications, lipstick, and stamp adhesives.
If you have gluten intolerance or
celiac disease, your body is unable to digest gluten. Consuming gluten may result in symptoms such as cramping, bloating, gas, and
diarrhea. The only treatment is to eliminate gluten from your diet. Following a gluten-free diet can reverse any intestinal damage and nutrient deficiencies that may have occurred as a result of consuming gluten.
On this diet, gluten must be completely avoided, as any amount of gluten can cause damage to the small intestine. Learning how to eat gluten-free can be challenging, since gluten is found in many popular foods, such as cereals, breads, and pasta.
Moreover, gluten is often found in unsuspecting foods, such as frozen yogurt, soy sauce, and beer. Fortunately, there are many gluten-free alternatives, making it possible—with a little practice and help from a registered dietitian—to still eat a well-balanced, satisfying diet.
The following guide lists foods that are recommended, foods that should be questioned because they may contain gluten, and foods that should be avoided. While this guide is fairly comprehensive, it is not a complete list of all the foods that should or should not be avoided. It is important to work with a registered dietitian who specializes in gluten intolerance to learn which foods can safely be a part of your diet.
Grains and Starchy Vegetables
Meats and Beans
Sweets and Snack Foods
(Condiments, Baking Ingredients, Soups, Sauces, and Gravies)
*These are foods that
contain gluten. Many of these products are available in gluten-free versions. But it is important to carefully read the ingredient list.
oats may be consumed in limited amounts with approval and follow-up by a doctor.
When shopping for foods, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the available food products and figuring out which are gluten-free. It helps to begin with loading up on fresh foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as fruits and vegetables, milk, unprocessed cheese, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, and tofu. Then, add gluten-free sources of grain, such as rice, corn tortillas, and grits. These foods should be the staple of your diet. You can then supplement with snack foods, sweets, condiments, and special gluten-free items.
When choosing food products, be sure to read the labels carefully. In the US and Canada, food manufacturers must list whether a product has any of the most common allergens, including wheat.
Until recently, people with gluten intolerance were advised to avoid oats. But recent research shows that uncontaminated oats are generally well-tolerated when consumed in moderation. Regular, commercial oats are often contaminated with gluten-containing grains. Pure, uncontaminated oats, though, can be specially ordered from certain companies. Before adding oats to your diet, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.
Celiac Disease Foundation
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Canadian Celiac Association
Canadian Dietetic Association
Celiac disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114570/Celiac-disease. Updated June 13, 2016. Accessed September 13, 2016.
Celiac disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease website. Available at:
http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/Pages/facts.aspx. Accessed September 13, 2016.
Food choices for a gluten-free diet. Canadian Celiac Association website. Available at:
http://www.celiac.ca/b/?page_id=299. Accessed September 13, 2016.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
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