Why You Must Read Labels on the Gluten-Free Diet
By Lana Bandoim
Whether you are following the gluten-free diet for medical reasons or it is a personal choice, reading labels is an essential skill. Gluten is a protein that appears in rye, wheat, triticale and barley. Consider the following reasons why it is important to read the ingredient list on a product.
Look for a gluten-free label on packaged foods. The FDA only allows companies to use the gluten-free label if they have less than 20 ppm of gluten in a product. This is considered the safe limit for people on the gluten-free diet. However, it is important to remember that wheat-free does not mean the entire product is free from gluten. There are other sources of gluten such as rye and barley that may be included.
Some foods do not have gluten-free labels, but they are still safe to eat. For example, fresh fruit and vegetables will not have a big sticker declaring they are free from gluten. A lean cut of fresh meat from the butcher will not have the label. However, they are allowed on this type of diet.
Read the Ingredients
Sometimes it is not clear from the front label if a product is free from gluten. This is why it is crucial to read the list of ingredients and pay attention to potential sources of gluten. Learn the common names for these sources such as wheat, bran, bulgur, enriched flour, spelt and triticale. Brands may use a variety of names to describe wheat and other gluten sources.
Call and Ask
If reading the ingredients is not enough, consider calling the manufacturer and asking about gluten. You can find most numbers on the packages. This method takes time and effort, but it is a good way to find out if a product is safe for people on the gluten-free diet.
After buying the same thing for months, you may be tempted to save time and stop reading the ingredient list on that product. However, recipes and brands change all the time. They may update the ingredients and suddenly include gluten. If you are not constantly checking the product labels, then there is a risk of buying something that is not safe. Avoid getting comfortable and keep checking everything you buy for gluten.
A gluten-free diet can take effort to maintain. However, reading labels is an essential part of the process. Learn to recognize the common names for gluten ingredients and avoid them.
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