The FDA does not regulate the manufacturing process of chocolate, so it’s possible for gluten-containing ingredients to slip into a batch of chocolate. Additionally, manufacturers may not label all ingredients with their gluten content. Some companies does use dedicated equipment and strict protocols to ensure that their products contain no traces of gluten.
So, while most all plain dark, milk, or white chocolate doesn’t contain gluten, it’s smart to limit your intake if you have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten unless you are confident that it is truly gluten free.
What is gluten?
Gluten is the name given to a protein found in various grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. When you eat these grains, your body breaks down the gluten and stores it in your muscles and your digestive system. Celiac Disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can cause damage to the small intestine, leading to malnutrition and other serious health issues. One in every 100 people in the United States is affected by Celiac Disease, and others may have gluten sensitivities that can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or tiredness.
How is Chocolate Made?
When it comes to chocolate, the process of turning cocoa into chocolate is complicated and filled with potential points of contact with gluten. Cocoa comes from the seeds inside cocoa pods that grow on the Theobroma cacao tree. The pods are fermented, roasted, and then crumbled prior to being ground into cocoa powder. Cocoa is not yet chocolate until it is roasted and ground until it reaches a very specific viscosity and mixed with cocoa butter.
Which type of chocolate has gluten?
Some milk chocolate and white chocolates may include a gluten-containing starch. However, dark chocolates are typically naturally gluten-free, as they are produced from pure cocoa beans with no additives and on gluten free machinery. However, many manufacturers add extra ingredients to their dark chocolate bars such as emulsifiers, flavorings, and preservatives. Dark chocolate bars containing added ingredients may not suitable for people with Celiac Disease, but if you’re simply trying to avoid gluten, you can will most likely be fine.
Which types of chocolate are gluten-free?
Pure cocoa powder is naturally gluten free. Some companies produce gluten free chocolate bars with unprocessed cocoa powder, organic cocoa powder, or carob substitute (which has a similar texture but different taste). Some gluten free chocolate brands also use sugar substitutes such as stevia or monk fruit to enhance the sweetness of the chocolate without adding extra carbs.
Chocolate is delicious, but not all varieties are gluten-free. Before you indulge, always read the ingredients and nutrition labels to ensure you’re choosing a safe product. If you have Celiac Disease, always check the ingredients list to make sure there is no gluten added. If you are avoiding gluten due to a gluten sensitivity or other digestive issues, choose chocolate bars that are pure and don’t contain milk lecithin. And always remember: chocolate is a treat, not an everyday food. Keep your portions small and indulge in chocolate sparingly!