Is Hemp Safe to Eat When You're Gluten-Free?

Hemp hearts

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Hemp—a very close but non-psychoactive relative to the cannabis plant known as marijuana that has gained a reputation as a superfood in recent years—is technically gluten-free. It's not at all closely related to the gluten grains wheat, barley, and rye.

However, that's not the end of the story for hemp, which is a valuable source of fiber, magnesium, and essential fatty acids. With all this versatility and nutrition contained in hemp, how can those of us on a gluten-free diet reap its benefits?

The catch with hemp, as with many other grain products, is that hemp is often grown in rotation with other crops including gluten grains like wheat. And farmers may use the same equipment to harvest, store, and transport hemp as they do with gluten grains. That's how hemp can become contaminated.

It's not guaranteed that hemp will be cross-contaminated with gluten, of course, though there's a chance that some hemp could be above the U.S. legal limit of less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

So What Can You Do to Enjoy Hemp?

In order to avoid gluten cross contamination, you should look for hemp product manufacturers that ensure their sources of hemp are as pure as possible. To be extra cautious, avoid any hemp-based products that don't reference gluten on the packaging (or manufacturers who openly admit they can't guarantee they meet gluten-free standards, such as Pacific Foods). Instead, look for products that are labeled "gluten-free," which means they fall below 20 ppm.

Products that are labeled gluten-free must meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's legal standards of less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Manufacturers of products that are certified gluten-free are required to take extra steps to ensure the raw materials they source are free of gluten cross-contamination. If you're particularly sensitive, your safest bet is a "Certified Gluten-Free" label from the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO), which ensures that that products fall below 10 ppm.

You can find many certified gluten-free hemp products on the GFCO's website, and here are a few hemp products that are certified gluten-free to help get you started:

  • Purely Elizabeth Blueberry Hemp Ancient Grain Granola. Purely Elizabeth granolas are packed with nutrients and come in a variety of flavors including blueberry hemp, which is made with other superfoods like amaranth, quinoa, and chia, and is lightly sweetened with coconut sugar and baked with coconut oil. All of Purely Elizabeth’s products are certified gluten-free by the GFCO, certified vegan, and non-GMO verified, and are made with organic ingredients and contain no artificial additives or soy.
  • Elmhurst Barista Edition Hemp Milk. Made for steaming, foaming, and pouring, this barista-style hemp milk is certified gluten-free by the GFCO and is vegan, dairy-free, carrageenan-free, kosher, and non-GMO verified. It contains only six ingredients and is shelf-stable until opened, and you can also use it as a creamer for your favorite cup of coffee or tea.
  • Suncore Foods Hulled Hemp Seeds. These hulled hemp seeds make for a quick energy-boosting snack or can add a satisfying crunch and nutty flavor to yogurt, smoothies, and salads. Suncore Foods' hemp seeds are labeled gluten-free and included in the GFCO's product directory, and are also organic and non-GMO verified.

As hemp foods become increasingly popular, more hemp-based products are available that are specially sourced and certified safe to eat for those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. As always, read labels carefully and don't hesitate to contact the company or manufacturer should you need to know more.

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