Gluten is the collective name for a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye.
Those with gluten disorders may experience symptoms like digestive discomfort, headaches, fatigue, weight loss, and dermatitis after eating gluten (3).
Other people may also benefit from removing gluten from their diet.
Fortunately, if you have a gluten-related health condition, removing gluten from your diet will likely improve your symptoms.
This article provides 12 simple tips to help you eliminate gluten from your diet.
Wheat, barley, and rye are popular gluten-containing grains. However, there are plenty of gluten-free grain alternatives.
Examples of gluten-free grains include (4):
Despite its name, buckwheat is a grain-like seed that’s unrelated to wheat and naturally gluten-free. Buckwheat can be enjoyed as a cereal or used in recipes for gluten-free baked goods (5).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates gluten-free claims on food packaging.
A product claiming to be gluten-free must comply with the FDA gluten-free definition by containing less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. The European Union (EU) has similar legislation for food products labeled as gluten-free (7, 8).
What’s more, many third-party organizations have established gluten-free certifications for food manufacturers. These are additional certifications, and the food product must still comply with governmental regulations.
For example, the Gluten Intolerance Group established the Certified Gluten-Free label, which requires products to contain 10 ppm or less of gluten. This organization requires ongoing testing and annual inspections to ensure compliance (9).
All fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free.
Gluten-free diets may lack micronutrients like folate and magnesium unless gluten-containing products are replaced with other nutrient-dense foods. Including more fresh produce in your diet can help you acquire these nutrients and eliminate gluten (10).
Here are a few ways to add more fresh produce to your diet:
Some processed fruits and vegetables, such as frozen or canned products, may contain gluten as a food additive or thickening agent. It’s best to check the label for gluten or wheat if choosing canned, frozen, or dried fruits and vegetables.
Evaluate your current pantry items and clean out any products that may contain gluten.
The best way to identify if a product contains gluten is to read the ingredient list. Throw out or donate items that contain grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Check for lesser-known gluten-containing ingredients like malt vinegar, brewer’s yeast, and seitan.
Eliminating gluten from your diet can be difficult if other household members don’t require the same dietary restrictions.
In this case, consider dedicating a section of your pantry to gluten-free items. This also helps avoid potential cross-contamination and accidental gluten exposure.
You can also avoid accidental exposure by using a separate toaster and washing cutting boards and utensils before preparing your meals.
Gluten may be present in certain beverages, especially those containing alcohol.
Beer is a common source of gluten because it’s produced by fermenting gluten-containing grains like wheat or barley. However, there are some gluten-free beers on the market made from ingredients like sorghum or rice (11).
If you want to drink alcohol on a gluten-free diet, opt for distilled liquors like vodka or gin. Typically, wine is also free from gluten. That said, wine coolers may contain malt barley, a gluten-containing grain.
Most non-alcoholic beverages like coffee, tea, and sparkling water products are gluten-free. Nonetheless, some drinks like pre-made smoothies, coffee drinks, or milkshakes may contain gluten, so it’s best to check the label.
If attending a social event, consider bringing your own gluten-free dish.
Accidental gluten exposure is common at social events. Even if a dish is inherently gluten-free, cross-contamination during cooking may pose a risk to people who require strict gluten elimination.
Offer to bring a dish to share with others. Having at least one gluten-free dish to enjoy can reduce social stress and limit potentially harmful gluten exposure.
Nuts and seeds to add to your diet include:
You can add nuts or seeds to gluten-free oats, finely grind nuts to use in place of wheat flour, sprinkle seeds over your salad, or blend nuts into nut butter to enjoy with apple slices or celery sticks.
Many types of wheat flour also have different names like semolina, farina, or graham flour. All of these flours contain gluten and must be avoided if you follow a gluten-free diet.
Moreover, common food additives may contain hidden sources of wheat like maltodextrin, caramel color, and modified food starch.
Evaluating the allergens statement on a food label is the easiest way to identify whether a product contains wheat and gluten. This is because the FDA requires foods to clearly state if they contain any of the top eight allergens, such as wheat, on the food label (14).
Food manufacturers can add gluten to processed foods to improve texture, mouthfeel and shelf life. For example, lunch meat, sausage, baked goods, french fries, and seasoned rice mixes may all contain hidden sources of gluten.
What’s more, processed gluten-free products are often higher in fat, sugar, and sodium than regular products. Thus, while these products are gluten-free, they may not be a favorable replacement for whole foods (15).
Whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and seeds, are naturally gluten-free. Focus on eating more of these whole foods while limiting your intake of processed food.
Restaurants are increasingly offering gluten-free meal options. However, these meals typically come with an added cost, as well as the risk of cross-contamination.
Cooking more meals at home can help you eliminate gluten from your diet, all while benefiting your overall health.
In fact, people who eat home-cooked meals at least 5 times per week eat significantly more fruits and vegetables and are 28% less likely to be overweight than those who eat home-cooked meals less than 3 times per week (16).
Create a weekly meal plan to stay accountable. Stock your kitchen with gluten-free staples like fresh produce, nuts, seeds, legumes, protein sources like eggs and fish, and various gluten-free grains.
Condiments and sauces often contain hidden sources of gluten. Food manufacturers can add gluten to condiments to act as a stabilizer, thickener, or emulsifier.
Condiments that may contain gluten include:
Joining a gluten-free community is a great way to find resources, community recommendations, and support from other people with similar dietary restrictions.
The National Celiac Association has various chapters around the United States that offer conferences, small meetings, and support for individuals living with celiac disease.
Most people can eat gluten without any side effects.
However, certain individuals, including those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, need to avoid it, as it can cause harmful symptoms.
Along with carefully reading nutrition labels, you can also eliminate gluten from your diet by eating more whole foods, increasing your intake of gluten-free grains, and cooking more meals at home.