What is gluten and which cereals and foods contain it

Gluten is a generic term used for the protein in certain types of cereals, which can trigger coeliac disease. There are a number of essential components that can produce the disease: glutenin and gliadin (wheat), avenin (oats), hordein (barley), and secalin (rye). But, as we will see throughout this note, they are not the only cereals that contain gluten.

Although it is true that, about oats, in recent years there are doubts and it is believed that most celiacs can eat it (provided that its labelling specifies that it has not come into contact with any other ingredient that can trigger celiac disease).

The truth is that gluten certainly has an important role to play in making bread, biscuits and other related ingredients. For example, it helps to increase their volume, influences the formation of the particular – and exquisite – crust, is useful for keeping them fresher for a longer period of time, and gives them shape.

It also helps the dough to become spongy, since when it comes into contact with water during the production process it produces a specific polymer that forms an elastic envelope, capable of retaining the gas responsible for fermentation. This is the presence of the “gluten binder”.

What cereals contain gluten? And what foods?

We found gluten in certain cereals, but only in some species of them. However, we must take into account something fundamental: we will find gluten in all foods containing this type of cereal, regardless of the type of food or its forms.

For example, we can especially mention bread, cakes and pastries, pies, pasta (even if it is wholemeal) and also certain types of wild rice. We can also find gluten in processed or ultraprocessed products, such as: croquettes, sausages, sausages, prepared with fresh cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs, frying potatoes and potato chips, potato flakes for making purée, sauces, spice mixes, chocolate…

And what are the cereals that have gluten? Mainly wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, spelt and spelt. Wheat bulgur also contains gluten, as does couscous from both wheat and barley.

Foods with gluten

What about the oatmeal?

As you may have noticed, we have not included oats among the cereals containing gluten. The main reason is that oats contain avenin, a type of protein very similar to glutenin present in traditional cereals, but which is not gluten itself.

Although it is true that its consumption by people with celiac disease was discouraged at the time, some scientific studies published recently (such as Safety of Adding Oats to a Gluten-Free Diet for Patients With Celiac Disease, published in the journal ‘Gastroenterology’), found no negative variations in those people with celiac disease who, for 12 months, consumed oats, or associated symptoms and results of different serological tests.

He concluded that there was no scientific evidence of the incompatibility of eating oats in the gluten-free diet, but that some caution should be exercised in view of the fact that there were few scientific studies on this subject.

Therefore, as we have already told you at some point, the key is cross-contamination. That is, although at first gluten-free oats appear to be safe for people with coeliac disease, cross-contamination is very common, as it is common for the same fields, facilities and production factories to be used for both gluten-containing cereals and oats, so they may contain traces.

The best way, then, is to choose only certified oats, always opting for certified products that specify that the consumption of oats is totally safe for celiac.


How does our body react to the presence of gluten?

When you suffer from gluten intolerance, it means that your body is reacting incorrectly to the presence of gluten (i.e. when it is consumed) by your immune system.

In our small intestine, specifically in the intestinal mucosa, there are millions of villi that provide the possibility for the intestine to better absorb nutrients. Thus, when a coeliac consumes gluten, the villi of the intestine can be damaged, so that they gradually tend to become shorter.

As a result, food reaches our large intestine in half-digestion, causing severe diarrhea and gastric spasms, in addition to other usually related symptoms such as: flatulence and gas, constipation, nausea, fatigue, physical decline, weight loss and depressive disorders.

In other words, the small intestine is progressively deteriorating, which over time can cause a serious food deficit. The diagnosis for the inclusion of an adequate gluten-free diet is extremely important and must be made quickly.

This article is published for information purposes only. It cannot and should not substitute for consultation with a Nutritionist. We advise you to consult your trusted Nutritionist.

This article is published for information purposes only. It cannot and should not substitute for consultation with a Nutritionist. We advise you to consult your trusted Nutritionist.