Gluten-Free Foods: Top 10 Ingredients You Really Shouldn’t Worry About

Let’s face it, sometimes the gluten-free diet can be complicated. Add to this the issue of common ingredients that never seem to disappear from lengthy lists of “things to question,” and it’s no wonder that confusion still exists about what is safe to eat. The good news is that many ingredients don’t contain gluten, including this list of ingredients you can stop worrying about today!

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10. Caramel coloring, maltodextrin and glucose syrup

Why they’re on the worry list in the first place: Ingredients such as caramel coloring, maltodextrin and glucose syrup may be made from wheat, but this is not that common. These ingredients are frequently found in packaged foods.

Why you don’t need to worry: In the U.S., these ingredients are usually made from corn. On the off-chance that wheat was used, the Food Allergen and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that wheat is noted either in the ingredients list or in a Contains statement. Even then, gluten-free experts say that if wheat is used to make any of these ingredients, they are so highly processed that they are considered safe on the gluten-free diet.

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26 thoughts on “Gluten-Free Foods: Top 10 Ingredients You Really Shouldn’t Worry About

  1. Hi! I came across your list while looking for an explanation of what tapioca dextrin is. I do not follow a gluten free diet because I don’t have any allergies (so far) and stick to a mostly plant/veggie/lean protein based diet. But I did feel that I needed to leave a respectful comment here.

    While this list is a great list about the gluten properties, I want to share my experience with some of these ingredients.

    Maltodextrin: TMI —> Makes me, umm… a lot Totally makes me sick :/

    Caramel Color: While it may not be a gluten issue, my closest friend found that when she cut out this additive, many of her hormonal imbalances subsided.

    Hydrolyzed: In my college anatomy class we were taught by a real life Doctor lol, and we learned that the process of “hydrolyzed” anything creates MSG. I don’t think I need to go into the effects of that for anyone (re:maltodextrin) haha Not to mention the high tie between MSG and ALS :/

    I’m not trying to start a online comment battle, I just wanted to share my experience with this list. I wish all of you who are living and managing a Gluten Free Lifestyle all the best, I’m sure it can’t be easy this day in age.



    1. Thank you for sharing this information, Sara. I have celiac and I will often have an item that are labeled gluten free and still react negatively. Anytime someone states highly processed it’s probably a good idea to avoid it, regardless of whether it is gluten free or not. It’s not fun to find out later and have to deal with pain, bloating, loss of energy, and the list goes on. Thank you to everyone who tries their best to be helpful. You all are appreciated.

      1. YES – PLEASE ! ! !
        I hope someone would answer this too. My wife loves it but she is scared of it because it says malt.

        One other thing, why do the articles on this site not have the Authors name beside the publish date?

        Just asking.

        1. Malt vinegar has gluten. Regular vinegar doesn’t. (See the article above–they mention this under the section on distilled vinegar.

  2. Sorry to join this discussion so late in the game…I’d just like to add that I’ve viewed various information sources which express the opinion (and I agree from my own experimentation) that wheat is an appetite stimulant and that that is the only reason it and it’s derivatives are included in almost ALL the processed foods…it’s certainly not for taste or nutritional value in most cases. Another thing to bear in mind is that even if the wheat derivative (and corn for that matter) are gluten free, it doesn’t mean they are not GMO free or pesticide free. Personally I avoid wheat at all costs. I’m not celiac but recently, after a long period of abstention from wheat my greedy side got the better of me and I began eating those little melba toasts…my god did I suffer! About 3 weeks in I began to have constant gas, uncomfortable and embarrassing. After quitting and taking probiotics I had a few days of awful detox and now am back on track. Dangerous stuff this wheat if you ask me 🙂 Good luck to all!

  3. You do actually need to worry about cross contamination for “pure” spices. They can be processed on the same machinery as gluten-containing ingredients or blends, or, depending on the spice, may come into contact with glutenous grains if grown and harvested on the same farm. Stick to safe brands that test for gluten and follow safe handling practices (like McCormick).

    Also, according to dietitians, wheat IS used in Europe for caramel coloring. So, if you buy, say, a bottle of balsamic vinegar made in the Mediterranean that contains caramel coloring, you can’t count on it being made from corn.

    For super-sensitive celiacs, ingredients that are processed to remove gluten can still cause a reaction. Our immune systems are smart and know when something perceived as an enemy (or something similar to that enemy) is present. How do you think our planet is becoming over-populated? 🙂 We’re not here by luck. We’re here because our immune systems are very sophisticated.

    This article is irresponsible. Did you consult with any of the physicians in the Chicago or Baltimore celiac programs before publishing it?? Many celiacs are sensitive down to 20 ppm (some less) and can’t even have “omission” beers because their immune systems still react to the presence of the grain.

    You can “stand by” this article all you want, but you should know you’re going to get people sick, and they may not be able to figure out what substance did it, which means they could get sick again and again because when retracing their to steps to determine the source of the glutening, they’re going to cross off the balsamic vinegar imported from Italy because you said caramel color was ALWAYS safe, and it’s NOT.

    Very, very disappointed in you, GF Living. It’s articles like this that got me sick during first year of learning to eat with celiac disease. I now know to call the manufacturer of anything processed. If you did the same for a random packaged food with suspicious ingredients, you would likely be quite surprised. To be safe, you should tell people to call manufacturers. The bigger companies will verify their overall practices in testing for gluten, labeling, and if they offer a gluten-free product listing.

    1. You are right that beyond the US there’s no guarantee that caramel color is corn-based. In the US, corn products are uber-cheap because corn is (still) subsidized by the government, so the author is right that US caramel color is most likely corn-based.
      Our main exposure to caramel color is through dark colored colas and beverages, not as much vinegar, but it’s worth noting that it is a possible carcinogen:

  4. I appreciate the article, but having Celiac Disease, I have a reaction whenever I eat Maltodextrin or Dextrose not specifically made from corn. Many of us have WHEAT allergies, not just gluten allergies, so although the gluten is removed, the wheat still remains.

    1. I watch out for Maltodextrin, it’s not fun. I look like I’m 6 months pregnant after an hour of ingesting it.

  5. As celiac, wheat, nut and corn sensitive, I can’t eat malodextein. I have both a corn allergy and sensitivity so I have both digestive and breathing problems.

  6. These are the type of sites that are just killers to Celiac patients. There is so much confusion and dissensus around Celiac and Gluten intolerance that poeple with “Experience” represent themselves as professional. There are asymptomatic patients, maltodextrin can be processed using corn, glucose from corn, dextrose from corn, etc. There are cross contamination issues, etc. Don’t think because you have Gluten Intolerance or Celiac for life that this makes you an expert. If your looking for advice seek out professional advice, which is very limited in the US. It is a shame to say but the US is far behind many countries when it comes to Celiac.

  7. YIKES!!! Although I do not suffer from severe food allergies , my first reaction to this ‘article’ is that is must have been sponsored by the food corporations! To say that any of these “highly processed” additives in your food is ‘nothing you should worry about’ and are ‘good things’ blows my mind. Most of these food edditives are higly toxic to the body 🙁

    1. Totally agree with Kelly. “Highly processed” IS the problem. Our bodies haven’t evolved to eat massively concentrated food stuffs and that’s exactly what processed “food” is. Eating this garbage strains your body to the point of failure, which manifests itself as various diseases depending on what parts fail first. Jason Fung’s book “The Obesity Code” may have a terrible title but it lays out in detail what happens when we poison ourselves with processed foods. He debunks most of the nonsense “advise” pushed at us for the last 50 years by “Big Food” and their bootlickers in the FDA.

  8. Mono and Diglycerides are trans fats that do not have to be labeled as such on American food labels. Food companies are able to label their product as 0 grams trans fat even with these ingredients in them. Trans fat is linked to heart disease. This kind of fat has been shown to raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol—which can increase risk of heart problems and even type-2 diabetes. Trans fat builds up plaque in arteries, which could eventually lead to heart attack. A 2014 study also suggested that eating a lot of trans fat could be linked to memory issues. In 2013, the FDA determined that PHOs do not meet their distinction of “generally recognized as safe” for human consumption. This is how the food industry gets around the 2015 ban. Read the labels and avoid them as much as you can.

  9. It concerns me the FDA and the Codex Alimentarius Commission consider 20 ppm of gluten to be “gluten-free” which allows a product like “Benefibre” splash advertising on their labels “Gluten-Free” and on the diagonally opposite: “made from wheat”. At least one source says “that people with celiac disease stay away from fiber supplements derived from wheat dextrin.” I think anything made with wheat should be automatically stopped from claiming “gluten-free”.

  10. Your answer is not 100% correct. Whether or not wheat glucose syrup is gluten free or not depends on the manufacturing process. In todays profit-oriented culture if short cuts can be taken then they will. The end result is that wheat gluten syrup is not guaranteed to be gluten free. Period.

  11. Your comments regarding wheat glucose syrup are WRONG. It depends on the manufacturing process whether or not it still contains enough gluten to cause an adverse reaction in a coeliac. The Finnish study that you quote was flawed as they only used wheat glucose syrup from one source and supplied by ‘the industry’ who, of course, have a vested interest to ensure that the samples they provided were OK. Had the Finnish study bothered to take a much wider ranging sample of wheat glucose syrup then their results would have been much different. At least the coeliac organisation in Australia recognise this and advise that is is a personal risk that each coeliac should take. Do you want to take the risk ?

  12. This list is wrong. The FDA rules state that hydrolyzed products must be tested for gluten before processing. THe hydrolization process makes the PPM testing invalid.

    Here is the rule:
    “9. What additional requirements does FDA propose to verify a “gluten-free” claim on hydrolyzed or fermented foods?

    Because the current gluten tests do not adequately detect and quantify gluten in fermented and hydrolyzed foods or ingredients, FDA proposes that, in order to make a “gluten-free” claim, manufacturers of these foods would have to make and keep records to show all of the following:

    The food meets the definition for “gluten-free” in 21 CFR 101.91(a)(3), including that the food had less than 20 ppm gluten, before fermentation or hydrolysis.
    The manufacturer adequately evaluated the processing for any potential for gluten cross-contact.
    Where a potential for gluten cross-contact has been identified, the manufacturer has implemented measures to prevent the introduction of gluten into the food during the manufacturing process.
    These records could include test results conducted by the manufacturer or an ingredient supplier, a certificate of analysis, or other appropriate verification documentation for the food or each ingredient used in the foods. ”


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