Gluten, a glue-like protein that’s found in many grains, including wheat, rye, and barley, doesn’t agree with everyone. However, it’s found in a wide variety of foods you might not expect, including mayonnaise, soup and, believe it or not, some cheese. Wondering how to avoid this sneaky ingredient – or even if you need to? This post will help you learn how to identify foods that contain gluten, recognize a gluten intolerance and find out the benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle.

Food that Contain Gluten

Wheat and some other grains contain glutenin and gliadin. Glutenin gives dough its sticky elasticity. Gliadin makes bread light and fluffy as it bakes. Because of these versatile properties, the ingredient is often added to processed foods as a stabilizer. It can even be found in some beauty products and medications.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require companies to list the ingredient on food labels. Therefore, you have to do some detective work to find it in the things that you eat. Look for the words “wheat,” “barley” or “rye.” These grains contain the tricky protein.

Some other ingredients that have gluten include:

• Bulgur

• Malt

• Couscous

• Farina

• Seitan

Wheat germ and wheatgrass may be cross-contaminated. Sometimes, natural flavoring, artificial flavoring, food starch, dextrin and maltodextrin are made with wheat or barley. Generally, avoiding packaged foods is a streamlined way to keep the ingredient out of your diet.

Should You Avoid Gluten?

Gluten isn’t bad for everyone. However, the grain products that we consume today are made differently than they were in the past. Wheat crops have been modified to resist drought and insects. 

Some of the proteins found in these hybridized grains weren’t found in ancient grains. These new proteins are harder on the human body and may be responsible for an increase in celiac disease and wheat intolerance in the general population. Plus, the process that has made modern wheat water soluble has made it more likely to trigger an immune response.

The most common symptoms of gluten intolerance or sensitivity include:

• Bloating

• Irregular or abnormal bowel movements

• Abdominal pain

• Brain fog

• Headaches

• Fatigue

• Joint and muscle aches

• Anxiety and depression

If you don’t tolerate wheat, your body might attack the proteins. In people with celiac disease, the body also destroys living tissue in the gut. Sensitivity to this grain is often combined with autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation. Because these issues can mimic other health concerns, you might not pinpoint your diet as the culprit.

Benefits of a Gluten-Free Lifestyle

Your gut health affects the rest of your well-being. If a gluten intolerance is causing inflammation or autoimmune reactions, you probably have some of the symptoms described above. Although there is no definitive test for non-celiac sensitivity to this protein, you might want to try eliminating the ingredient from your diet if you don’t feel well. 

A gluten-free lifestyle can:

• Promote digestive health

• Improve cholesterol levels

• Boost energy

• Reduce your risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes

• Improve symptoms of other inflammatory diseases, like arthritis and IBS

• Encourage you to eat a healthy diet with more fruits and vegetables

• Help you avoid eating processed and packaged foods

• Stimulate healthy weight loss

One way to make it easier to avoid this ingredient is to find simple, healthy snacks. Fresh produce is always an easy option for a healthy diet that requires little to no preparation. 

Ekoa bars are a great option to store in your car, desk or bag. They’re so delicious that you might not realize how nutritious they are. Plus, they’re free of this sneaky protein. When you need a quick pick-me-up or on-the-go snack, we’ve got you covered.