Leading a gluten-free diet is hard. In the modern world, almost every delicious or enticing food there has some form of gluten in it.
Pasta, bread, beer, and even soy sauce, all of these have gluten in them and all of them form the staple of most people’s diets.
Many people are new to the gluten-free diet or the people who have got celiac disease despair constantly over the options for dinner that they no longer have available to them.
Fortunately, we live in the modern day and the modern world has much more variety in culinary availability than our ancestors ever had.
But do beans have gluten in them at all? In this article, we will look at beans more intensely and just see whether they could be a part of your gluten-free gastronomic experience, or will they be passed over for other pulses?
Frequently Asked Questions
For those unfamiliar with this word, gluten is a type of structural protein that is found in grains, including wheat, barley, couscous, and rye.
Gluten makes up the structural content of most grains and in some varieties, like bread wheat, it makes up to 85% of the entire protein of the grain.
Though it may seem like a standard protein, gluten is actually quite unique and the effects it has on the food it is in are immense. It is very adhesive in the way it is structured and not easily broken down.
When used in products like bread, this adhesive property becomes elastic, giving the dough its stretch and the loaf once the dough is cooked a soft and chewy texture. Without gluten, bread would not rise or develop a chewy interior.
In beers and sauces, the gluten stabilizes the mixture and keeps it all emulsified. This is also true in some unexpected gluten foods, like ice cream, where it makes the ice malleable while not breaking its frozen state.
Since gluten is so useful for manufacturers and caterers, it is put in many foods where it is not necessarily needed to stabilize or add texture to food.
Unfortunately, this is disastrous for many living without gluten, who wouldn’t necessarily know that gluten is in the food.
The answer to whether beans are gluten-free or not is that they are absolutely gluten-free in their natural form. Any and all beans – pinto, garbanzo, cannelloni, etc. – are gluten-free, so you shouldn’t have to worry about them causing you a reaction if you are celiac.
However, this does come with a caveat. While all beans should be gluten-free and are if they are not messed with, there are some that aren’t. Bean products or any type of bean that has something added to it beyond its natural state is a gray area in terms of gluten.
Some products will have additives added to them that do contain gluten, meaning that while the beans themselves are gluten-free, the sauce they are in, or the product added to the beans is not.
Similarly, some bean products may have been exposed and cross-contaminated with gluten and as such are unsuitable for those living a gluten-free lifestyle.
Considering that beans are one of the foods that naturally don’t have gluten, this is especially annoying for those with celiac disease and people on a gluten-free diet.
So, how do you know which beans have been contaminated and which have not?
Unfortunately, we can never know for sure which beans have or have not been contaminated, but we can predict which is more likely to be contaminated based on how they are packaged or how the product they are in is made.
Most Likely To Be Contaminated
For starters, canned beans. This is not something most people would expect, as they are simply being placed in a can. But it is not the bean in the can that is the problem, but what the bean has been placed inside the can with. Most of these beans are placed in water, brine, or some kind of sauce.
If the beans are just placed in water or brine, you should be fine for the most part. Yet, if it is in a sauce or says may contain wheat on the can, give it a miss. It most likely has some gluten somewhere in the liquid.
This is also true of any sauce or dip made from beans. The number of ingredients that goes in these sauces will most likely mean at least one of them has gluten in it somewhere.
Lentils and green peas are members of the pulse family that are the most likely to be cross-contaminated. This is thanks to manufacturers being less strict when packing them compared to other ingredients and that they are often roasted with wheat or barley in the fields they are harvested in. As such, make sure you know where these ingredients come from before eating them.
Least Likely To Be Contaminated
Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure whether a product is contaminated or not is through labeling. If it is labeled as gluten-free, then it is probably gluten-free, and the higher the cost of the product the less chance of cross-contamination.
If you cannot find any explicitly stated gluten-free beans, then your best bet is to find raw beans or pulses. Raw products have fewer chances to be exposed to gluten-based products, as the only time it can happen is during the packing process.
Other beans, that are in sauces or have been precooked, can have ingredients that contain gluten added to them during the cooking stage. If you cook the beans yourself, you know exactly what is going into the beans and can avoid adding gluten easily.
Some places where you can buy guaranteed gluten-free beans are Nuts.com, Edison Grainery, and Omena Organics.
These wholesalers take very good care to make sure none of their products have any gluten in them and are never cross-contaminated by it.
Being gluten-free is immensely tough. Our modern culinary world revolves around gluten and its amazing properties and those who can’t eat it are left a bit in the dark with no sign of light.
It makes it even harder when foods that have never had gluten before, now have gluten added for no other reason it seems than to make it harder for gluten-free people to eat it.
However, if you work hard and research a bit, it shouldn’t mean the end of your culinary explorations with beans and other pulses.
There are places that keep a bean’s natural attribute alive and those places will stand you in good stead next time you need to make a three-bean casserole for a local potluck.