4 Surprising Foods That Can Gluten You

You'd Probably Never Suspect These Foods Have Gluten Cross-Contamination

When you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity and suffer symptoms from a glutening, it sometimes can be difficult to figure out what "got" you.

Sure, at times it is pretty simple (that restaurant salad where you found a crouton in the lettuce, for example). But when you're mainly eating at home and eating mostly fresh products (little in the way of packaged goods), it can come as a truly unfair surprise when you get glutened anyway.

What you may not realize is that there are several fresh foods that nonetheless are subject to significant gluten cross-contamination (albeit in very small amounts).

For those of us who are particularly sensitive to trace gluten, these foods represent risks ... and risks you'd most likely never suspect, either. Here's the list of four fresh foods at risk for gluten cross-contamination:


The Fungi Often Grown on Rye

Mushrooms often cultivate on straw. John Borthwick/Getty Images

Mushrooms are delicious and have many health benefits. But sadly for those of us with gluten issues, they're also frequently cultivated on straw from gluten grains—most often rye, but sometimes wheat, too.

This doesn't leave much gluten on the mushrooms (we're talking tiny amounts, well below the legal threshold for "gluten-free"), but it's plenty to make some of us sick.

The solution? Try to find sources of wild mushrooms at farmer's markets and online.


Strawberries: Another Straw Problem

Strawberries can be grown on straw, too. AntiMartina/Getty Images

Farmers have many uses for the wheat straw left over when the grain kernels are removed, and bedding strawberries is another common use.

Straw makes a great bed for the strawberry plants, protecting the plants themselves from frost and keeping the fruit up off the ground. But it doesn't work out that well for those of us who react to minute amounts of gluten grains.

The solution? Make friends with a farmer who beds his plants on plastic, not straw.


Soy Issue Involves Shared Equipment

Soy harvested with shared equipment. Glowimages/Getty Images

Many of us react to soy, which happens to be a particularly allergenic food, even without the prospect of gluten cross-contamination. But what got my attention when it came to soy is that my reaction was identical to my gluten reaction—right down to the dermatitis herpetiformis I get when I've been glutened even a tiny bit.

As it turns out, soy is incredibly cross-contaminated because most farmers who grow soy also grow wheat, and they use the same equipment (combines, storage, and trucks) for both.

The solution? You can buy certified gluten-free soy sauce, but you may have to grow your own edamame.


Beans Cross-Cropped with Gluten Grains

Lentils cross-cropped with wheat. Danita Delimont/Getty Images

This photo of a farmer's fields in Washington state tells it all: the greenish-yellow fields are lentils, and the brighter green fields are wheat. Next year, they'll swap places, with the lentils moving to the wheat fields and the wheat moving to the lentil fields.

Farmers who grow beans almost always grow them in rotation with a gluten grain, most frequently barley or wheat. And as with soy, they use the same equipment to harvest both. I've found barley kernels in a bag of "naturally gluten-free" lentils, and many others have, too. 

The solution? Check out the article linked below for sources of beans that are tested for trace gluten.

These Foods Won't Be A Problem for Everyone

Not everyone will react to these foods, in fact, the majority of people with gluten issues probably will not, simply because they're not that sensitive. But some of us will, so you can use this list to help you track down where your symptoms may originate (not to mention, provide you with some solutions to keep enjoying foods you love!).

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