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For many health-conscious consumers, gluten is a protein that they’d rather not have in their food. Unfortunately, gluten is present in many types of food, which means that you may be missing out on nutrition that would have helped you reach your fitness goals easier. Before we delve deeper, it’s important that we provide context on why gluten is so important and why it can be dangerous to some people, to the extent that they strictly exclude it from their diet.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten refers to a group of proteins that is commonly found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. It is what helps foods retain their shape and it also provides elasticity to some foods. This sounds trivial, but to some people, avoiding gluten can be a matter of life and death. 

Why Does It Matter?

The reason why some consumers can’t eat foods that contain gluten is that it aggravates the effects of celiac disease. Celiac disease hinders the GI tract from absorbing gluten properly, which causes damage to the gut. Even a small amount of gluten can cause significant (and sometimes, irreparable) damage to the GI tract. While only 30% of celiac disease cases end in a fatality, most cases of celiac disease are diagnosed and treated promptly. Some symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating and gassiness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Unexpected weight loss

Is Rice Gluten-Free?

Rice is gluten-free, but only if it is natural and pure. Some rice-based dishes are not gluten-free, as they may be prepared with ingredients that contain gluten. Some examples of these dishes are rice pilaf, pre-seasoned packaged rice, rice cooked with sauces, and rice with any added seasoning.

Rice can also be cross-contaminated with gluten, as is the case if the rice is grown, and processed near facilities that do the same for barley, rye, and wheat. The same can also happen in groceries and in markets where rice is displayed with products with gluten. All it takes is for a careless shopper to use the flour scoop for the rice to cross-contaminate the rice.

How Do I Make Sure My Rice Is Gluten-Free?

If you have celiac disease, ensuring that your rice is gluten-free should be among your top priorities, as even a small amount of gluten can damage your intestines. Some precautions to take include:

  • Checking food labels to make sure rice is gluten-free
  • Asking for plain rice with no seasoning when eating out
  • Refraining from buying rice from bins
  • Calling customer care if the packaging is unclear on gluten content
  • Preparing your own rice meals by mastering How to Make the Perfect Rice Pudding | Carolina® Rice

Rice is popular among Southeast Asian countries due to its low cost and ready availability. This makes rice a good substitute for foods that contain gluten, such as most bread and pastries. However, even when rice doesn’t have gluten, it’s always important to manage the risks by staying vigilant and informed about the food you’re consuming.