If you’re like me, you try to eat naturally gluten free and healthy most of the time. So does gluten free chocolate fit into our goals?
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I think so. For me, balance is key. The odd treat can put a smile on your face, improve your quality of life and make you feel a little less deprived by the limitations of your gluten free diet.
Yes. Chocolate is made from cacao beans and is naturally gluten free. It’s what’s added to the chocolate that you need to be careful of. A good quality dark chocolate contains cocoa mass, cocoa butter and cocoa powder which all come from the cocoa bean, along with a little sugar and maybe some vanilla or other flavoring. The best dark chocolate is 70% cocoa or higher.
Always check labels. Some chocolate, even good quality chocolate has barley malt which is not gluten free.
Yes, in moderation.
A good quality dark chocolate is not just gluten free, it’s healthy1.
Chocolate is high in polyphenols. These are great food for the friendly microbes in your gut. Having a healthy gut microbiome is especially important for people with celiac disease. As Dr. Alessio Fasano discussed in his books, Gut Feelings and Gluten Freedom, a healthy microbiome may be one key to better understanding the causes and triggers of celiac disease.
Polyphenols are also powerful antioxidants which play a role in protecting against heart disease, some cancers and inflammation2.
Chocolate also contains flavonoids which give plants their color and protect the plant against frost and drought. For humans, flavonoids help to balance the immune system, protecting against colds and flus. They also help to boost brain function and are anti-inflammatory. These things are all important benefits for someone with celiac since we often suffer from inflammation, and brain fog is a common symptom of celiac3.
Well, it’s not really hiding, it’s right there on the label, but here’s what you need to look for.
Barley Malt is often added to chocolate as a sweetener. In some countries like U.K., a product with barley malt can be labelled gluten free so long as it tests at less than 20ppm4. This is not allowed in Canada or the U.S.5, 6
Wheat Flour is added to some chocolate candies such as Smarties in Canada. These are the little candy-coated chocolate morsels which are different than American Smarties. M&M’s and Reese’s Pieces are gluten free chocolate in a candy coating if you’re looking for a similar, safe treat.
Wheat Flour is also involved in any chocolate candy bar that has a wafer or cookie. For example Kit Kat which is a chocolate covered wafer is not gluten free. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar and Hershey’s Kisses are gluten free but Hershey’s Cookies and Cream bar is not gluten free.
Watch for “may contain” statements on labels. Many chocolate products are made in facilities that handle gluten so cross contamination is a risk. Many of these facilities are huge and gluten containing products may be handled very far away from gluten free ones. So “made in the same facility as…” is not always a problem, but do take “may contain” seriously especially if the label does not have a gluten free statement.
Everything above applies to milk chocolate as well as dark chocolate. It is naturally gluten free BUT may have gluten ingredients such as barley malt or wheat flour added. Be sure to check labels.
If you have a dairy intolerance as well as celiac, then milk chocolate may cause you some discomfort. Dark chocolate may be a better choice.
As I’m writing this, it’s almost a week until Easter and I’m seeing all kinds of chocolaty treats in the stores. Is this gluten free chocolate? Let’s look at some of the popular ones. Keep in mind that formulations and labelling laws are different in depending on the country so always check the label.
A quick look at the label tells us that the Lindt milk chocolate bunny has barley but the dark chocolate one does not. So the Lindt dark chocolate bunny is gluten free and safe for celiac.
Kinder Surprise eggs and Kinder Mini eggs are good gluten free chocolate choices but NOT Kinder Joy eggs. They contain wheat.
Yes, Cadbury Creme Eggs are gluten free and the website states that there are no gluten products produced in the same facility as the Creme eggs. Cadbury mini eggs and caramel eggs are also gluten free7.
Hershey’s has a few varieties of Easter Eggs. The Easter Eggies are candy coated milk chocolate and are gluten free. The Hershey’s Whopper Eggs are malted milk and contain both barley and wheat flour. These are not safe for celiac.
Peeps Marshmallow Bunnies are not chocolate but they are populate Easter treats. They're made with sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, carnauba, potassium sorbate, natural flavors, and colors. They are gluten free.
Balance is key. Having a sweet treat can brighten your day and make you feel a little less deprived.
The danger is that you start to reward yourself with sugary treats and they become more than an occasional thing. Julie Daniluk in her book Becoming Sugar Free and Dr. Robert Lustig in his book Metabolical both warn us of the health issues that come from eating sugar and recommend to keep our consumption below 9g per day. Be nice to yourself, and that means being nice to your future self by taking care of your health today.
1. The benefits of having a healthy relationship with chocolate. The Benefits of Having a Healthy Relationship with Chocolate | Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2022, January 18). Retrieved April 5, 2023, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-benefits-of-having-a-healthy-relationship-with-chocolate#:~:text=Increases%20heart%20health%3A%20The%20antioxidants,and%20death%20from%20heart%20disease
2. Owen, A. (2022, November 16). 9 benefits of Dark Chocolate & How Much You Should Eat. 9 Benefits of Dark Chocolate & How Much You Should Eat. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from https://joinzoe.com/learn/dark-chocolate-health-benefits
3. Watson, K. (2019, October 23). Everything you need to know about flavonoids. Healthline. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/health/what-are-flavonoids-everything-you-need-to-know#sources
4. Barley malt vinegar and barley malt extract - suitable for a gluten free diet? Coeliac UK. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2023, from https://www.coeliac.org.uk/blog/barley-malt-vinegar-and-barley-malt-extract/
5. Is barley gluten-free? Beyond Celiac. (2020, August 17). Retrieved April 5, 2023, from https://www.beyondceliac.org/gluten-free-diet/is-it-gluten-free/barley/#:~:text=Are%20Barley%20Malt%20and%20Barley,like%20beer)%20and%20malted%20syrup.
6. Canada, H. (2020, June 15). Government of Canada. Canada.ca. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-allergies-intolerances/gluten-related-disorders-celiac-disease/notice-canadians.html
7. Cadbury Creme Egg Milk Chocolate Egg, 1.2 oz. , 1.2 oz. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2023, from https://www.cadburyusa.com/content/hersheyland/en-us/home/products/cadbury-creme-egg-milk-chocolate-egg-1-2-oz.html?bvstate=pg%3A3%2Fct%3Aq#:~:text=Are%20Cadbury%20Creme%20Eggs%20Gluten%20Free%3F&text=Happy%20to%20hear%20from%20you,where%20the%20eggs%20are%20produced.