Ingredients To Watch For (And Why)

Keep in mind that none of the lists included on these pages promises to be either complete or rest on any absolute authority. These are just designed as a guide, and all users of this information remain responsible for their own choices. If there's anything you disagree with on these pages, or you notice anything I missed, please Email Me.

The first thing you need to understand when reading ingredients labels is that there are several classes of items to be wary of. These groupings follow; click on the link to get detailed lists of each type.

Toxic Grains
These are certainly wheat, rye and barley. Oats is also generally avoided, and for the purposes of the following lists will be considered to be firmly on the toxic list. For more information about oats, see the "Controversial Ingredients" section.
Whole Foods
These are items which, when you're shopping in a grocery store, will always be crossed off of your list. These include things like "noodles" which, when listed as an ingredient in most foods, will almost always contain wheat. There are exceptions, of course, like rice noodles in Oriental foods, or even gluten-free noodles found in speciality stores. But in general, you will know to avoid these foods.
Taboo Ingredients
These are ingredients that you should always avoid.
Nebulous Ingredients
These are ingredients which may be derived from toxic grains, or those which may, themselves, have ingredients you can't be sure about. So, for example, you may see "tomato paste" on a list and assume it's safe, however tomato paste may have more than tomatoes in it, including the flavor enhancer "hydrolized vegetable protein" (HVP) which can be made from wheat. These items may need to be checked with the manufacturer.
Controversial Ingredients
These are foods which some celiacs feel are safe, and some do not. You need to familiarize yourself with the issues surrounding these foods, consult with your doctor, and make informed choices.
Safe Ingredients
Here's a short list of things that sound suspicious but are actually okay.
But I Heard It's Not Safe To Eat...
If the items you were looking for were not on any of the "problem" lists above, perhaps they are on this list of foods and ingredients that are safe, but are often given a "bum rap" due to ancient misinformation that is still circulating through celiac societies and general word-of-mouth.

I find that, when shopping, it is quickest to do a fast "scan" of the label first looking for the obvious culprits ("flour," "modified food starch" where the starch is not specified, "natural flavorings" in dinner-type foods, and "spices" are the main ones I look for), and then go back and read more carefully if the product passes first muster. If you are reading many labels and begin to find you're scanning without absorbing it, try reading aloud. Other shoppers usually just smile tolerantly at you when you do this.

Another way to get a handle on what may be safe and what may not, is to purchase food guides from one of the celiac groups.

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Copyright 1998 Linda Blanchard All Rights Reserved. Date Added: February 16, 1998. Last Update: January 07, 2009.