You can’t walk into a grocery store without spotting a gluten-free section, and gluten-free dishes on restaurant menus are becoming increasingly commonplace, too, making it easier to suss out potential pitfalls if you’re living with Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance.
But even with these signs of progress, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding what is—and isn’t—actually safe to eat if you’re avoiding gluten.
“Gluten lurks in places that are not immediately obvious,” says Jax Peters Lowell, author of The Gluten Free Revolution, who’s been living with Celiac for more than 30 years, and has seen every trick the pesky protein has to offer. “Not doing your homework, and relying entirely on a gluten-free product label, is like using spell check before you’ve actually learned to spell.”
Since gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, it’s expected in breads and cereals. But what about sushi or even your go-to breakfast beverage? Lowell divulges some of the surprising places you’ll find the inflammatory ingredient, so you can stay on your gluten-free A game.
Here’s her list of minefields… —Molly Gallagher
1. Certain coffees. Got a hankering for your favorite hazelnut coffee? Well, do some research before taking your mid-afternoon sip. “Many instant coffees and decaffeinated coffees contain cereal fillers, which make them unsafe,” says Lowell. “Be wary, too, of fancy coffee drinks, coolers, and tea. Many contain wheat-based flavorings and syrups.”
More Reading: Meet the better-for-you “psuedograins”
2. Imitation seafood. Unless you’re sure your favorite sushi spot is using fresh crab meat, put down the California roll. “These products often start out gluten-free, but binders are added to help mold the product into shrimp, crab, lobster, or scallop shapes,” says Lowell.
3. Some vitamins and pain relievers. First we learned you can’t trust your supplement to be gluten free, but Lowell warns that you shouldn’t take your aspirin label at face value, either.
“Always, always, always call the company to verify if it’s gluten-free. If you’re buying the generic brand—and if it isn’t labeled gluten-free—make sure you ask the pharmacist or company rep to double check that the cheaper alternative is gluten-free,” says Lowell.
4. Soy sauce. “It’s typically made with fermented wheat,” Lowell says. Try gluten-free tamari instead, she suggests.
5. Seitan. This common meat substitute, often found in vegetarian and Chinese food dishes, doesn’t get a all-signs-are-go signal from Lowell because “it’s made of hydrolyzed wheat protein.” In other words, a giant gluten-filled bomb.
More Reading: Is Frankenwheat haunting your diet?
6. Crab cakes. If you’ve verified it’s real crab meat, it should be fine, right? Wrong. “In order to hold it together there’s a glutinous ingredient used,” Lowell says. Breadcrumbs, panko, and more.
7. Lipsticks. “Lipstick color goes straight to your stomach as it fades [or is eaten over the course of the day],” Lowell says. Many are made with gluten, so check the seal—and ingredient list—before swiping your fave shade across your lips.
For more information, check out The Gluten Free Revolution