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Gluten-free foods – an overview

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 365 views

Gluten-free foods are important for people with gluten intolerance (celiac disease). In addition to many natural gluten-free foods such as fruit and vegetables, there are also more and more gluten-free substitute products. Read here which foods are gluten-free, why processed products can be “gluten traps” and what to look out for when shopping.

Gluten in food – what is it actually?

Gluten is a sticky protein found in many grains. Its special property is to bind water . In foods such as bread, it causes crusts and crumbs to form. It also keeps dough elastic and pastries fresh.

Gluten is in these grains:

  • Wheat
  • barley
  • Spelt
  • rye
  • Emmer
  • Einkorn
  • Hand
  • Triticale (wheat and rye mix)

Beware of finished products!

All foods made with these grains also contain gluten. These include bread and other pastries, pasta, couscous, and beer, among others.

Caution is also required with many finished products such as sauces, soups and spreads. The background: The food industry likes to use gluten as a binding agent.

Celiac disease – abstain from gluten for life

About one percent of people in Germany suffer from the autoimmune disease celiac disease. Food containing gluten is generally taboo for them. The gluten protein triggers inflammatory reactions in the small intestine. There is no therapy yet. They must therefore avoid gluten for the rest of their lives.

Find out more about celiac disease here .

Gluten-free is not recommended for healthy people

Experts advise healthy people against a gluten-free diet. The reason: The choice of food is unnecessarily restricted for them. In addition, a gluten-free diet sometimes leads to digestive problems. The replacement products are also usually more expensive than conventional products.

Find out more about a gluten-free diet here .

These foods are gluten free!

There are foods that naturally do not contain gluten – such as fruit, vegetables, (unprocessed) meat and dairy products. The German Society for Celiac Disease (DGZ) has put together a comprehensive overview of gluten-free foods. While the natural products mentioned always manage without the gluten, there are often limitations in their processed form.

We present you with a selection.

Gluten-free grain products and alternative flours

Gluten-free products that are suitable as an alternative to conventional cereals include:

  • chickpea flour
  • lentil flour
  • plantain flour
  • chestnut flour
  • Tempura mehl
  • Mandelmehl
  • coconut flour
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • buckwheat
  • millet

The following applies to types of flour such as buckwheat or pseudocereals such as quinoa and amaranth: they are naturally gluten-free. However, there is a risk that they come into contact with gluten-containing foods during harvesting or processing.

The DGZ therefore recommends buying only whole grains of these products, spreading them out on the work surface before further processing and checking carefully whether there are any foreign grains or other elements from the field such as dirt and weeds.

Special case oats

Oats are also a specialty. In conventional cultivation, it comes into contact with wheat, rye and barley and is therefore often contaminated with gluten. Studies show that a large number of celiac disease patients tolerate uncontaminated oats. It is marked as “gluten-free” with the emblem of the crossed-out ear of corn of the DGZ on the packaging.

If you suffer from gluten intolerance, also pay attention to other processed products such as muesli, starch, pastries or semolina, the DGZ recommends.

fruit and vegetables

All fresh fruits and vegetables are gluten-free. Even frozen products without additives are easily suitable for people with celiac disease.

However, care should be taken with creamed vegetables, as the sauces often contain gluten as a binding agent. Dried fruit such as raisins, apricots, and prunes may also not be suitable. They may come into contact with flour during processing.

Side dishes

Rice, quinoa, boiled potatoes, homemade mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes and millet are suitable as side dishes for a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free pasta varieties made from lentils or chickpeas are also an option.

Dairy products

All natural dairy products are gluten-free. In addition to the milk itself, these include:

  • yogurt
  • buttermilk
  • Scene
  • Quark
  • Sour cream
  • sour cream
  • fruit yoghurt
  • Milk
  • Natural cheeses such as Emmental, Edam, Parmesan
  • Mozzarella in Salzlake
  • Sheep and goat cheese
  • Mascarpone

However, light dairy products, flavored dairy products with vanilla, nougat, chocolate or nuts may contain gluten. Even with oat drinks, puddings and mousse, it cannot be ruled out that they contain the gluten protein. This also applies to vegan, light and Harz cheese.

Protein suppliers: fish, meat, eggs & Co.

The following protein suppliers are free of gluten:

  • Unbreaded, unseasoned fish
  • Unbreaded, unseasoned meat
  • Canned fish in their own juice and oil
  • smoked salmon
  • Mussels, scampi, shrimp
  • ground beef
  • Raw sausage such as salami, tea and mettwurst
  • Owner
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Seidentofu

There are restrictions in this food group for canned fish with sauces and spices. Doner kebab meat, gyros, nuggets and all products labeled “seasoned”, “pickled”, “ready to cook” or “ready to eat” may also contain gluten. This also applies to heavily processed meat products such as sausages and sausages.

edible oils, vinegar and nuts

All types of vinegar and oil that do not contain any additives are gluten-free. Butter , lard and margarine are also possible without any problems as part of a gluten-free diet.

Exceptions in this case are diet products and types of vinegar and oil to which herbs or spices have been added. They may contain carriers or release agents containing gluten.

The following applies to nuts: They are gluten-free if they are natural. With trail mix or roasted almonds, it’s better to check how they were made beforehand. There is a risk of contamination with gluten-containing foods during their production. Gluten-free products are marked accordingly.

sugar and confectionery

All types of sugar such as household, powdered or brown sugar are gluten-free. Honey is also allowed. However, this may not apply to sweeteners, dextrose or jam sugar. A look at the list of ingredients is necessary here.

When it comes to confectionery, it is also important to find out exactly which products do without gluten. There are now gluten-free chocolate and snacks from various well-known manufacturers.


As part of a gluten-free diet, you can consume the following drinks without any problems:

  • water
  • Tea without aroma or vitamin additives
  • fruit and vegetable juices
  • Lupinenkaffee
  • Voice coffee
  • Cocoa made from pure cocoa
  • Alcohol such as wine, sparkling wine, schnapps, clear spirits, gin, vodka, rum etc.
  • Plant milk made from almonds, cashews, soy etc.

There may be restrictions on flavored tea and coffee, lemonades, powder for cocoa drinks, fizzy drinks, isotonic drinks, liqueurs, whiskey and mulled wine.

Gluten free substitutes

The food industry has now also recognized the potential of gluten-free nutrition and is producing substitute products: According to Statista, a total of 2.7 percent of the German population bought substitute foods without gluten within 14 days in 2020. That’s far more than the 1 percent of the population who actually have celiac disease.

You can now find a large selection of substitute products without gluten in supermarkets, drugstores and health food stores. These include, above all, different types of gluten-free bread and pasta – for example based on rice, pea or chickpea flour. However, they often contain more sugar and fat than conventional products.

Foods with hidden gluten

Some foods come as a surprise that they contain gluten. These are mainly processed foods in which gluten serves as a binding agent. Food that comes into contact with gluten-containing flour during production is also considered a “gluten trap”.

Among other things, this includes:

  • fries and croquettes
  • meatballs and sausage
  • Gnocchi, Schupfnudeln and potato dumplings
  • Bircher muesli
  • Cornflakes
  • I argue
  • Eis
  • Light products
  • canned goods
  • ready-made sauces and soups
  • breaded foods
  • ketchup and mustard
  • beer and spiced coffee

How to recognize gluten-free foods!

All foods that contain a maximum of 20 milligrams of gluten per kilogram may be labeled as gluten-free. This regulation applies throughout Europe. The DZG has created the crossed-out ear of corn as a symbol for gluten-free products.

In the case of processed foods that do not bear the seal, it is important to take a look at the list of ingredients. If you want to buy a gluten-free product, these terms must not be listed:

  • Gluten
  • wheat / wheat starch
  • Barley / barley malt / barley malt extract
  • Oats
  • Spelt
  • rye
  • Einkorn
  • green grain
  • Bulgur
  • Hand
  • triticale
  • Emmer
  • wheat protein
  • wheat gluten
  • I argue

Baking with gluten free foods

Baking with gluten-free flours is a little more complicated than with the usual types. Since the gluten protein is missing, the dough binds water less well. As a result, the baked goods are less juicy and not as airy. In order to improve the result, additives such as agar-agar, carrageen , guar gum or xanthan are often used.

If you bake at home with gluten-free flour, it is important not to copy conventional recipes 1:1 and only replace the flour. Rather, special recipes with adapted proportions are required.

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