The 7 Most Common Questions about Gluten and Grains

gluten-free grains
Answers to your gluten-free grain questions. Janine Lamontagne/Getty Images

Even with the growing popularity of the gluten-free diet, many people continue to have questions about gluten and gluten grains. Here are the seven most common questions I see, plus quick answers (and links to more information):

1) What Is Gluten, Anyway?

Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. In people with celiac disease, gluten in wheat, barley and rye triggers the immune system to attack the small intestine.

In people with gluten sensitivity, it seems to cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms (but potentially no tissue damage).

2) Which Grains Contain Gluten?

This is a tricky one. The truth is, all grains contain some form of gluten (which stores the energy for the seed to eventually grow), but it's only the gluten found in wheat, barley and rye that bothers people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

3) Which Grains Are Safe in Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity?

There are plenty of them. Rice and corn are  gluten-free grains (just make sure to get packages that are explicitly labeled "gluten-free" to make sure you don't get any with gluten cross-contamination). You also can use amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum, and teff (again, choosing gluten-free-labeled packages).

4) Is Spelt Gluten-Free?

Nope, not at all. Spelt actually is a species of wheat, even though in many cases it's labeled "spelt" and not "contains wheat." There are several other grains that fall into this category, too -- I strongly recommend you learn which ones they are.

5) Is Ancient Wheat Gluten-Free?

Although I've run across people with celiac and gluten sensitivity who say they can consume Einkorn wheat and other forms of ancient wheat without getting glutened, medical studies have shown that these grains have some gluten in them.

6) Is Buckwheat Gluten-Free?

Despite its name, buckwheat is not wheat — in fact, it's not even a true grain. So yes, buckwheat products should be fine, provided they're labeled "gluten-free" (buckwheat can be very cross-contaminated with gluten, which makes certain brands unsafe for us).

7) Are Oats Safe If You're Gluten-Free?

This is a tricky question. The majority of people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can consume oats without causing symptoms (although those oats may need to be in moderation). However, some people react to oats the same way they react to wheat, barley and rye.

(Edited by Jane Anderson)

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