List Of Foods High In Gluten

For those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, identifying foods high in gluten is crucial for managing symptoms and preventing damage to the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and related grains that causes issues for some people. While gluten has some beneficial properties for food texture and elasticity, it can wreak havoc on the digestive systems of those unable to properly process it.

List Of Foods High In Gluten

We will cover the major sources of gluten, where it hides in foods, tips for avoiding it, and how to enjoy gluten-free options instead. Being aware of foods containing this problematic protein is key to thriving on a gluten-free diet.

Major Sources of Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and hybrid grains like triticale. It acts as a glue that holds foods together and gives dough its elastic qualities. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can damage the small intestine and cause digestive issues.

The most problematic sources of gluten include:

Wheat - This includes wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, and Kamut. Wheat is used to make bread, cereals, crackers, baked goods, pasta, and more.

Barley - Barley is used to make soups, stews, bread, and beer. Pearl barley is a common form of barley used in recipes.

Rye - Rye contains secalein, a form of gluten. It is used to make rye bread, crispbread, and some alcoholic beverages.

Triticale - This hybrid of wheat and rye contains gluten. Triticale can be found in products like cereals, baked goods, and pasta.

Malt - Malt is produced from barley and contains gluten. It shows up in malt vinegar, malt extracts, malted milkshakes, and other products.

Brewer's Yeast - This active yeast contains gluten and is used to brew beer. It can also be taken as a supplement.

Wheat Starch - This thickener contains gluten unless specifically processed to remove gluten. Always check labels for certification.

Gluten-Containing Grains in Foods

Many processed foods and baked goods contain gluten due to the use of wheat flour and other glutenous grains as ingredients. Here are some of the most common sources:

Breads - This includes white bread, whole wheat bread, rolls, bagels, and flatbreads. Gluten-free bread alternatives are available.

Pasta - Most traditional pasta contains gluten. Opt for gluten-free pasta made from lentils, chickpeas, rice, or corn instead.

Cereals - Many breakfast cereals and granola contain glutenous grains like wheat and barley or use unsafe oats. Verify gluten-free labels.

Baked Goods - Foods like donuts, cookies, muffins, and pie crusts are made with wheat flour and rye. Enjoy gluten-free baked goods instead.

Beer and Malted Beverages - These beverages contain gluten from ingredients like malt, wheat, and barley. Opt for gluten-free alcoholic options.

Crackers - Wheat crackers, pretzels, and pita chips harbor gluten. Swap for gluten-free crackers made with corn or rice.

Breaded Foods - Breaded meats, French fries, or veggies dusted with wheat flour contain gluten. Stick to unbreaded options.

Soups and Gravies - Flour is often used to thicken soups and gravies. Carefully check labels for gluten-containing thickeners.

Salad Dressings - Many bottled dressings use malt vinegar, soy sauce, or flour-based thickeners. Make your own dressings instead.

Sauces - Soy sauce, BBQ sauce, and roux-based cream sauces can contain hidden sources of gluten. Verify gluten-free labels.

Naturally Gluten-Free Foods

While gluten lurks in many processed foods, there are still plenty of nutritious naturally gluten-free options to enjoy:

Fruits and Vegetables - Produces like spinach, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, and sweet potatoes are gluten-free. Enjoy a rainbow of colors and nutrients.

Beans and Legumes - Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and peanuts offer plant-based protein without gluten.

Gluten-Free Grains - Grains like quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, amaranth, and teff can be enjoyed instead of wheat.

Nuts and Seeds - Walnuts, chia seeds, pecans, and nut butter are delicious gluten-free snacks. You can even make flour with almonds or coconut.

Dairy - Plain milk, cheese, and yogurt do not contain gluten. Opt for unsweetened varieties without sketchy stabilizers.

Meats and Poultry - Beef, chicken, fish, and eggs are naturally gluten-free. Avoid breaded and processed options.

Corn - Corn tortillas, popcorn and polenta prepared without glutenous additives are gluten-free.

Hidden Sources of Gluten

Gluten can sneak into foods you wouldn't expect. Always check labels thoroughly for ingredients that may contain hidden gluten:

Flavorings and Extracts - Vanilla, almond, and other extracts may use wheat alcohol carriers or barley malt.

Stabilizers - Ingredients like maltodextrin, dextrin, and modified food starch can be based on glutenous grains.

Imitation Meats - Soy-based meat replacements like veggie burgers often contain gluten from wheat ingredients.

French Fries - Cross-contact from fryers and wheat-based batters can introduce gluten to fries.

Spices - Spice blends may contain wheat flour or malt barley as an anti-caking agent.

Medications - Gluten is sometimes used as a binding agent in medications and supplements. Verify with your pharmacist.

Play Dough - Wheat flour is commonly used in play dough. Opt for gluten-free homemade varieties instead.

Lip Products - Lipsticks and balms can harbor gluten. Look for gluten-free cosmetic brands.

Beer and Liquor - Always verify gluten-free labels on beer, coolers, whiskey, and vodka.

Tips for Avoiding Gluten

Here are some tips to help avoid accidentally consuming hidden sources of gluten:

  • Read food labels carefully and look up unfamiliar ingredients.
  • Check labels every time you buy a product in case the recipe changes.
  • Call ahead when eating out to discuss gluten-free menu options.
  • Avoid food buffets and shared containers due to cross-contamination risks.
  • Prepare more meals at home using fresh, gluten-free ingredients.
  • Use separate appliances and utensils for gluten-free cooking at home.
  • Bring your own gluten-free snacks and desserts to social gatherings.
  • Opt for naturally gluten-free whole foods instead of processed options when possible.


What grains are high in gluten?

The main gluten-containing grains are wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Wheat in all its forms has the highest levels of gluten. Other problematic grains are spelt, farro, emmer, einkorn, durum, semolina and kamut. Always check labels on less common grains and grain products.

Is corn high in gluten?

No, corn does not naturally contain gluten. However, some corn-based products like tortillas, chips, or corn flour may have other gluten-containing ingredients added. Opt for verified gluten-free corn products to be safe.

Can gluten-free oats be contaminated?

Yes, oats are inherently gluten-free but can become contaminated during growing and processing. Oat products may contain traces of wheat, barley or rye unless they are specially handled and labeled gluten-free. Do not assume plain oats or oat products are uncontaminated.

Do vegetables contain gluten?

Fresh vegetables are naturally gluten-free. However, many packaged vegetables, veggie burgers, soups, and frozen veggie products contain questionable thickeners, flavorings, and stabilizers with gluten. Check labels and avoid battered veggies fried in shared oil.


Avoiding gluten entirely requires diligence in reading labels and verifying ingredients. Even foods that seem innocuous can harbor hidden sources of this problematic protein. The good news is that there are still plenty of nutritious and delicious gluten-free options to enjoy with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, gluten-free grains and legumes. Preparing your own meals using naturally gluten-free whole food ingredients is the safest bet for avoiding issues. With proper planning and care, living gluten-free does not have to limit your diet or lifestyle.

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