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Is Butter Gluten Free?
Butter. Who doesn't love it? (put your hand down, sir..) Butter is an ideal spread for gluten-free bread and gluten-free crackers. It’s also a key ingredient in many recipes and vegan baking. But is butter itself naturally gluten free? Believe it or not, not all butters are gluten free. It’s obviously very important that you verify that the butter you’re using is gluten free, or you could be sabotaging your health.
How is butter made?
Butter is made by churning cream or milk to separate the solid fats from the liquid. In the course of this process, butter forms naturally. Some butter varieties may include other ingredients like salt or flavoring. Butter can be made from cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, or goat’s milk. The butter made from cow’s milk is typically slightly yellow in color and has a mild buttery flavor -- as one might expect.
Sheep’s milk butter has a lighter color and a slightly nutty taste. Some varieties of butter may also have added salt or additives such as sugar or soy proteins to make them more stable, and to help them solidify during refrigeration.
The main distinction between the various kinds and sources of butter is their fat content. Sheep's milk butter has slightly higher amounts of fat and protein than cow's milk butter, for instance, but the difference is not significant.
It may surprise you to learn there are dairy-free butter options, too. They vary by base ingredients, price-point, texture, and several other important markers for dairy butter fans who seek an analogous plant-based butter experience.
Vegan butter is made from soybeans, cashews, a mixture of butter beans and coconut oil, and many other counterintuitive ingredients. Innovation marches on as the world increasingly wises up to the global resource-depleting intensity of meat-rearing (not to get preachy in the middle of a butter article). The plant kingdom's nutritive treasure chest has everything we need, and can feed all of us. Now...where were we?
Does Butter Contain Gluten?
No, butter does not contain gluten. But that doesn’t mean you can eat as much butter as you like without any concerns. What could possibly concern you about butter consumption besides gluten? Well, what butter does have is both calories and saturated fats. Butter is delicious, but should be consumed in moderation.
Saturated fat has been linked to an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad,” cholesterol, and it is for this reason, the American Heart Association advises us to consume no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day. That is a little less than two tablespoons of regular butter.
Customers can also opt for butter-free spreads made with sorghum or molasses, which provide the same creamy texture and mouthfeel of butter without containing gluten. Some brands even make gluten-free butter with ghee (a type of butter made by heating cream until it forms an oily liquid), for those who prefer a traditional buttery taste.
Customers, though, shouldn’t rely on these brands to ensure their products are free of gluten, as contamination can occur during the manufacturing process.
Consumers should read the ingredients list carefully (as we have repeatedly lectured), or contact the brand directly to confirm whether its products are free of gluten.
Can celiacs have butter?
It would be easy to suggest that celiacs (people afflicted with gluten-sensitive celiac disease) can have their way with dairy butter -- but there is always the possibility of gluten cross-contamination in the manufacturing process if gluten-containing additives are added to the butter.
These additives, such as malt flavoring or wheat starch (for example), may contain gluten. These trace amounts of gluten could slip through butter processing stages undetected, in which case a gluten-free product containing butter could inadvertently be made with gluten-containing ingredients.
Furthermore, if a product containing butter is prepared using wheat-based ingredients, there’s a greater likelihood of gluten contamination due to the presence of the gluten-containing additives in the product.
Of course, the most bold contamination of dairy butter with gluten occurs when smearing butter across a hunk or warm bread or pastry. You may have been taking great care not to have gluten contaminate your butter in trace amounts, then simply lose your mind in the presence of warm, redolent, gluten-carrying fresh bread. Please warn your celiac friends when preparing to unveil warm bread in the presence of butter. Most people in that setting are driven to combine the two.
Dairy for the Wary: Gluten-and-Lactose-Free Butter Substitutes
As we've established, people with celiac disease can't properly digest gluten, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. This can really disrupt a picnic. And dairy comes with its own nemesis in the form of simple lactose intolerance. It's said that everyone is lactose intolerant, and that the discomfort we experience when taking dairy is just a question of degree.
If you love creamery butter and other joys of dairy, there are delicious alternatives that won't tie your guts into a knot. Butter substitutes like coconut oil and olive oil, milk-free dairy beverages like soy milk or almond milk, and nondairy milk options like rice milk or coconut milk will do you right, and most of these products are continually improving their texture and flavor to more closely mimic your beloved dairy.
If you’re unsure whether a dairy product is gluten free, consult a dietitian or nutritionist for guidance. They can help you understand the gluten-free claim on dairy products and what the possibilities are of gluten contamination. No one wants to abruptly end a sun-splashed picnic with the guests clutching their mid-sections and writhing on the grass.
Can celiacs have butter?
Yes, celiacs can have butter as long as it is gluten free, as dairy butter naturally is, and as long as a scan of the ingredient list reveals no warnings about cross contamination in the manufacturing process.
Do butter or margarine contain gluten?
No, butter and margarine do not contain gluten. Butter is usually made of milk fat, lactic acid, and sometimes salt. Margarine on the other hand is made of vegetable oil, water, and sometimes milk proteins.
Is butter gluten and soy free?
Yes, butter is gluten and soy free. Generally, butter does not contain gluten or soy, but if processed or flavored butter products are in your kitchen, then it’s important to check the label for additives that may contain gluten or soy.
It’s also important to be mindful of dairy alternatives such as vegan butter which should also be checked for gluten and soy content.
Always read the product label carefully and scan the packaging for warnings.
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