If I had $1000 for every time someone asked me if eggs, milk or fruit were gluten free, I could trade in my Honda Minivan for a Maserati. (It wouldn’t be too practical, but fun for a while.) Funny enough, the truth is that there is more to the question than meets the eye….
Naturally Gluten Free
The truth is that the words “naturally gluten free” – whether slapped on a product or just a matter of common sense – don’t mean a darn (for a celiac, at least) if the food has been contaminated. I don’t eat eggs (or anything else) from buffets at restaurants, for example. I also won’t eat them at someone’s home if the person isn’t committed to the vigilance that the celiac eating regime requires. One quick flip of a pancake with the same spatula used for eggs and voilá, the evil word “cross-contamination” rears its ugly head.
Toothpaste, etc. – Gluten-Contaminated?
I need to be so careful that our bathroom sink at home contains two sides with two sets of toothbrush and toothpaste. His and hers. Gluten-contaminated and gluten free. (My husband is gluten free at home as a matter of love, not necessity. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t gluten lurking in his toothbrush. Sounds crazy, I realize, but it’s true.) As a precaution, I even mark my naturally gluten free toothpaste with a big orange GF sticker from TriumphDining.com, just in case someone grabs the wrong tube.
What’s cross-contamination? It’s when the tiniest bit of gluten gets into an otherwise gluten free food. 20 parts per million is a commonly accepted standard for the amount of gluten that can enter into a celiac’s diet without causing harm. Yes, that’s 20 parts per million.
Here are some of the ways I have gotten sick, before I knew better, while eating foods that are otherwise gluten free:
– eating a salad with completely gluten free ingredients (e.g., if it was made in a bowl that had croutons in it previously, without being washed well enough with water and soap)
– eating gluten free pasta (if a strainer was used to drain the water, no amount of washing can remove the tiny gluten particles that lurk behind)
– eating peanut butter after someone stuck a knife into the jar that was previously used on whole wheat or white (wheat) bread
– eating grapes from a bunch that were on a shared plate with crackers
Eating While Celiac
For the uninitiated, eating while celiac may appear to involve a monstrous amount of double checking and information to remember. It does. But hey, what other choice do we have? Now imagine explaining this whole regimen to other parents when my six-year-old celiac daughter goes off on the occasional sleepover at a new home. (We have been extremely lucky. My daughter has great friends, with great parents. If nothing else, celiac disease makes you appreciate who your true friends really are!) Overall, it has become as second nature for us to do and explain the celiac shuffle as the pre-flight checklist followed by pilots before takeoff. “When you are going to eat, this is how you do it, step by step….”
Are Eggs Gluten Free?
So back to the first question posed above. Are eggs gluten free? Yes, if they are not mixed or seasoned with gluten products, and there is no cross-contamination. Eggs are OK. Milk is OK. Any fruit or veggies without wheat, rye or barley are OK. Buckwheat (which, despite the name, is not wheat) is OK, along with quinoa, millet and many other grains. Again, in each case this is assuming no cross-contamination has occurred in the processing or preparation.
The full list of items that cannot be eaten on a gluten free diet is available on a number of websites, including the Mayo Clinic (click here). Also, certain foods are well-known by celiacs, but often not others, to contain gluten, such as soy sauce (other than gluten free soy sauce). Label reading is a whole other topic for a future post!