In scientific sense, gluten is a combination of two proteins that act as a kind of binder or glue that holds foods together. An increasing number of people nowadays are opting for a “gluten-free” diet in order to either adapt to healthier lifestyles or due to certain conditions like celiac disease. Cheese is a staple in our everyday lives; it is no wonder that all cheese-lovers are bewildered about whether cheese is gluten free.
Is Cheese Gluten Free?
When we speak of gluten, the lists of food items that contain it are quite limited. Barley, wheat, triticale and rye are the sole ingredients that contain gluten, but these specific food items seep their way into many processed food items, including many kinds of cheeses. Here are 5 most common seen cheeses and let’s take a look at them to find out if they are gluten free.
1. Natural Cheese
Natural cheeses like Swiss and Cheddar are mostly gluten-free since their main ingredients include milk, salt and enzymes, meaning no gluten-containing ingredients.
2. Processed Cheese
Because so many ingredients can be added into processed cheese, so they may or may not contain gluten and some investigation is needed in determining whether a certain type or brand of processed cheese is gluten-free.
Processed cheeses, like the all-popular American cheese, is made from a combination of natural cheeses, like cheddar and Colby, and added emulsifiers. These cheeses may also contain other ingredients like butter, milk fat, milk, whey, cream, milk solids, milk protein concentrate and whey powder.
Some cheeses may also contain added preservatives and artificial colours in order to improve their shelf life and appearance. Some of these preservatives and artificial colours also contain gluten.
3. Flavoured Cheeses
The chances of flavoured cheeses including gluten are very high as there are so many different flavours of flavoured cheese available in the market.
These are made from a variety of ingredients including spices, herbs and other ingredients that are either added to the curds or milk during the process of making cheese or are added to the rind. One example of flavoured cheese with gluten is beer-washed cheese. And the beer is made from hops, an essential ingredient for making beer that contains gluten.
4. Blue Cheese
Blue cheese is a much loved food item around the globe, but there is a lot of debate and controversy regarding its gluten status. Here we tell you that blue cheese is very likely to contain gluten because Penicillium roqueforti, the bacterial cultures used to create blue cheese, is grown on rye grains, a primary gluten grain. Although most cheese makers these days use either malt or wheat-based dextrose in place of rye to make blue cheese, malt and wheat are all gluten containing products.
However, even if blue cheese is made from rye or gluten containing grain, the chances of producing harmful results are very low unless you are super sensitive to gluten. This is because the amount of gluten in these cheeses is very low. According to a study by Canadian Celiac Association, blue cheese contains untraceable amount of gluten.
5. Shredded Cheese
“Is Cheese gluten free?” has become one of the most asked questions in recent times. As for shredded cheeses, they may contain gluten due to the ingredients added. Anti-clumping agents are used by cheese manufacturers to give shredded cheese its texture. These agents include calcium carbonate, powdered cellulose and potato starch. Of these ingredients, only powdered cellulose is made from wheat which makes gluten a part of this cheese.
Fortunately, this kind of information is usually labelled on the product’s packaging. So check the label and it shouldn’t be difficult to know whether a certain brand or type of shredded cheese is gluten free. If you are still unsure, you can always purchase cheese and shred it yourself in the food processor.
Precautions When Choosing Cheeses
As it turns out, there is no one specific and simple answer to “Is cheese gluten free?” You’d need to do some investigation on your own to get to the bottom of this mystery. Following are some ways:
1. Check the Label
To be completely sure, read the ingredients list on all types of cheeses to avoid types or brands that have gluten-containing thickeners or artificial colours. The ingredients list also often state if it contains any ingredient made from wheat, the main source of gluten. If you are still confused, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer and confirm whether or not it is gluten free.
2. Watch Out for Cross Contamination
Cheeses can be contaminated with gluten during handling or packaging. Many stores, particularly the upscale supermarkets, purchase cheese in large blocks or wheels and then cut them into small quantities. If the blocks of cheese are handled in the deli section or the bakery, then there are chances that the cheese may get contaminated by gluten containing items like flour that are extensively used in those sections.
To avoid such contamination, opt for cheese that has been packaged at the manufacturing facility. If you are purchasing cheese from these supermarkets, then do so early in the morning and request that the cheese be cut and handled on clean equipment so as to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.
Watch the video below to know to make yourself a delicious gluten-free mac’n cheese with marshmallow and milkshakes: