Following a gluten-free diet is not easy. Many foods may appear gluten-free but contain hidden ingredients that are not. Whey protein is no exception.
Although whey protein itself is naturally gluten-free, whether or not a whey protein powder is suitable for a gluten-free diet depends on the product and its ingredients.
How is Whey Protein Made?
Whey protein is a popular dietary supplement. It’s commonly found in powdered form to easily mix into water, smoothies, or other liquids.
Whey protein is a product of milk. It can be easily separated during the process of making cheese.
Enzymes are added to the milk that separates the liquid into two products, curds and whey. Whey is the liquid product that is leftover .
The liquid whey is then processed into a concentrated powdered form.
Is Whey Protein Gluten Free?
Whey isolated from milk is naturally gluten-free. Whether or not a whey protein product is gluten-free depends on the brand.
Protein powders can become contaminated with gluten during processing. Some brands may also include ingredients such as flavorings and stabilizers that aren’t gluten-free.
If you suffer from Celiac disease, have a gluten allergy, or a gluten intolerance, it’s vital to research your products thoroughly before purchasing.
A good indicator a product is gluten-free is if it contains the Certified Gluten-Free seal on the label, such as our grass-fed whey, Naked Whey.
Is Whey Concentrate Gluten Free?
You may see whey protein powders listed as whey concentrate. This means during processing it went through several steps to boost the protein content. A true whey protein concentrate is 80% protein and 20% carbohydrates and fat .
Whey protein concentrate is naturally gluten-free (but not necessarily ideal for lactose intolerance). The whey protein itself does not contain any gluten. However, as mentioned above, it depends on the product as some contamination can occur during the processing stages.
What About Whey Isolate?
Whey isolate is very similar to whey protein concentrate but it contains higher amounts of protein per serving. After processing, whey protein isolate contains 90% protein and only 10% carbohydrates and fat .
Whey protein isolate is also considered safe for gluten-free dieters if it is in its natural form.
Whether you choose whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate, always check the ingredients and allergy list on the label. Look for the Certified Gluten-Free seal to be certain you are getting a product that has not been contaminated with gluten.
How to Make Sure Your Whey is Gluten-Free
Aside from looking for the Certified Gluten-Free seal on the label for your whey protein powder, there are a few other steps you can take to ensure your product is truly gluten-free.
The first place to look on a whey protein product to determine if it contains gluten is allergy information. According to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, all food and supplement products that contain any of the 8 major allergens (including wheat) must list them on their label .
This does not account for other gluten-containing products, such as rye, barley, or triticale.
Next, read through the ingredients list thoroughly to weed out any potential gluten-containing ingredients. Common supplement fillers include wheat germ, food starch, maltodextrin, MSG, and textured plant protein, among many others. All of these products can contain gluten but they don’t always.
Lastly, choose pure products. Avoid whey protein supplements that contain any other added ingredients. This can greatly reduce your chances of accidentally consuming gluten due to the higher risk of contamination with more ingredients added to a product.
It is important to note that just because a product states “100% pure protein” on its label does not mean the product doesn’t contain any other added ingredients. Always check the product package before purchasing.
Other Sources of Gluten-Free Protein
Aside from whey protein powder, there are many gluten-free protein sources. In fact, all proteins are considered gluten-free as long as they don’t have anything else added to them.
Gluten-free proteins include:
- Pure soy products (edamame, tempeh, tofu)
Another gluten-free protein product is pea protein, a popular plant-protein alternative to soy.
Bottom Line on Whey and Gluten
Although whey protein is naturally gluten-free, whether or not a protein powder product is gluten-free depends on the brand.
Don’t trust the front of the package. Always thoroughly research your products by scanning the allergy and ingredients list.
If you are looking for a quick way to check, look for the Certified Gluten-Free seal on the product label.
Remember, just because whey protein is gluten-free doesn’t mean every whey protein product is gluten-free. Most protein supplements contain added ingredients that can contain gluten.
When these steps are taken, gluten-free dieters can enjoy the benefits of whey protein products like everyone else, without worry.