The Ins and Outs of a Gluten Free Diet

 What is Gluten?

Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat, rye, barley which functions like a glue to help food maintain its shape (gluten is what allows dough to rise!) Normally, eating gluten should not be a problem, but for those with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, consuming gluten can be harmful to the body.

Sources of gluten:

Gluten is naturally found in any products made with:

  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Barley

Oats are usually processed in facilities that also handle gluten-containing ingredients, so unless they specifically say “Gluten Free”, oats have gluten in them.

Hidden sources of gluten:

Most people know that anything made with wheat (bread, pasta, pretzels, crackers) contain gluten, but there are other foods that contain gluten that are not so obvious. One of those food items is soy sauce. There are “gluten free soy sauce” varieties available, but Tamari sauce is a good alternative. Tamari is another type of soy sauce that naturally does not contain gluten. One restaurant on campus, The Bistro, uses only gluten-free soy sauce. They have plenty of gluten free options available, so make sure to check them out!

Malt is another hidden source of gluten. In addition to malt shakes, malt is often used in breakfast cereals like rice puffs and corn flakes. These products would normally be gluten free, but when malt is added they contain gluten. Breading and coating mixes also contain gluten.

While this one may seem more obvious, it’s easily forgotten. Flour is often used to bread meat before frying to make the outside crispier. Chicken strips, fish for fish and chips, and many Asian inspired chicken dishes, like orange chicken and sesame chicken, are usually coated in flour. The item does not necessarily have to be fried to have flour on it. Other breadings or crusted food items also contain flour. Make sure to check food labels of processed food to make sure there are no hidden sources of gluten.

What are some naturally gluten free foods?

The list below is taken from Celiac.Org

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dairy
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Meats, poultry, seafood
  • Rice
  • Cassava
  • Corn (maize)                                                 
  • Soy
  • Potato
  • Tapioca
  • Beans
  • Sorghum
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat groats (also known as kasha)
  • Arrowroot
  • Amaranth
  • Teff
  • Flax
  • Chia
  • Yucca
  • Gluten-free oats
  • Nut flours

Read more from Celiac.org

Is there something missing from a gluten free diet?

Getting rid of gluten also means getting rid of a few important vitamins and minerals. Standard grain products are fortified with iron, folate, and B12, but often their gluten free counter parts are not. If you are on a gluten free diet, it is important to make sure that you are still getting enough of these nutrients by choosing gluten free bread options that are fortified, eating other foods containing these nutrients, or taking supplements.

Gluten Free on Campus?

Eating gluten free on campus is a lot easier than you think if you plan ahead! Check out UCSD’s dining menus on the Housing Dining and Hospitality webpage.  All of our online menus are labeled so it’s easy to find gluten free options. You can also access the menus through the UCSD app! Our markets also have gluten free options available. Check out our other blog posts about all of the markets around campus!

Look for this orange symbol next to menu items indicating that particular item is gluten free!

Tips: Some dining locations have more gluten free options than others depending on the day. Take a look at the menu in advance here to pick a location and a dish. Gluten free options aren’t labeled in the dining halls, so it’s best to have an idea of what you’re going to get before you go in.