Is Butter Gluten Free?

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What is butter?

If you can tolerate dairy and you have medical approval, then butter can be a safe addition to your diet in moderation. An ancient gluten-free creation with a fascinating history, butter has been produced by humans for thousands of years. In fact, according to researcher Elaine Khosrova, it has been with us for over 9,000 years. Khosrova says butter likely began as an accident whereby chilled milk was probably “shaken around in a sack on the back of an animal on a bumpy trail.” According to website Milky Day, the earliest evidence of butter dates back to 2000 B.C.: Archaeologists found a limestone tablet that is approximately 4,500 years old, which illustrates how our ancestors made butter. But some historians believe this food was actually discovered much earlier.

Butter is an animal fat made by churning the cream from milk, typically from cows and other mammals such as goats. Its smooth, creamy texture and rich flavor make it an ingredient that no other product can duplicate. It is a preferred fat used in many recipes, since it is versatile and enhances the flavor of most foods.

Due to its high calorie and saturated fat content, butter should be consumed in moderation. Saturated fat has been linked to an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad,” cholesterol. For this reason, the American Heart Association advises we should consume no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day. That is what’s contained in a little less than two tablespoons of regular butter.

On the plus side, butter does contain small amounts of certain vitamins, including A, D, E, B12, and K2. More information about butter’s nutrition profile can be found here.

Is butter gluten free?

Butter itself is gluten free. According to the University of Chicago, grains are not excreted into milk and there is no cross-reactivity with milk, meaning that butter safe as well. When shopping, keep in mind that gluten may not be in the “main ingredient,” but gluten can sometimes be found in additional ingredients such as seasonings. Although some dairy products, such as certain cheeses, may contain additives or flavorings that contain gluten, butter as a standalone ingredient is generally very low risk (unless it is flavored and contains added ingredients). To be safe, always read the ingredients on food labels for verification before consumption.

When is butter unsafe?

You should always be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination of butter stored in a communal fridge, since shared knives and “double-dipping” when spreading onto bread can be cause for concern.

In short, you can generally use butter as an ingredient without worrying about whether it will have gluten or not, but you should always check the labels to be safe. The best type of butter to select is to plain butter, which won’t contain other ingredients, including salt.

What is ghee?

Ghee is a form of highly-clarified butter that contains less lactose than the common butter found in grocery stores. Ghee is traditionally used in Indian and other Southeast Asian cooking. Like butter, ghee is typically made from cow’s milk. In fact, ghee is made by melting regular butter, which separates into liquid fats and milk solids. Once separated, the milk solids are removed, leaving the ghee. This leads to a modified butter that contains mainly butterfat and less lactose than regular butter.

Butter is gluten free

Like butter, similar ingredients such as ghee (described above), margarine, cream, buttermilk, and fresh milk are also gluten free when free of additives, additional ingredients, or flavoring. Certain food brands offer plain butter, and you can find these options at most grocery stores. Some of the safe butter brands that include gluten-free products are Smart Balance, Organic Valley, Land O’Lakes, and Earth Balance. If you are unable to find a butter brand specifically labeled as gluten free at your local grocery store, simply read ingredients lists of different products. If the label or ingredients lists says “plain butter,” then the product should be gluten free. However, if the label lists additional ingredients, be aware that these may contain gluten.

Want to learn whether more common foods are gluten free? See the articles in our Diet section on potatoes, salad dressing, rice, and more.

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