If you are allergic to gluten (are a celiac), respond badly to gluten or are just following a gluten-free diet to improve your health, knowing which foods are gluten-free is key to your survival and your sanity. Don’t think you are alone, either. Studies show that over 5% of the US population have a sensitivity to gluten.
The sheer number of gluten-sensitive people in the US means that hundreds or maybe even thousands of people are asking the same question over and over again: do eggs have gluten in them? For many people, the answer to this question is not obvious. And, indeed, the even on close examination, the answer is not 100% all of the time. Like many things gluten-based, it all depends on the situation. But this article aims to answer the question of whether eggs are gluten-free once and for all.
Gluten is a common name for the proteins which are found in wheat cereals, including durum, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, wheat berries and einkorn, rye and barley. Gluten can also be found in oats, which is why many celiacs tend to stay away from porridge. Naturally, any products that are made from wheat rye and barley, such as breads, pastas and beer, are off limits to celiacs. But there are many other food substances that you would think are gluten-free but actually contain these harmful proteins. If you want to stay healthy and avoid pain, it is important that you know which food does contain gluten and make sure that you avoid them.
The good news for egg lovers it that eggs do not contain gluten. Absolutely no part of the egg, the yolk or the white, contain any trace of these proteins. What’s more, eggs from any bird are gluten-free. So, whilst chicken eggs are the most commonly consumed eggs in the U.S., celiacs can eat ostrich eggs, quail eggs or even peahen eggs if they wish. What’s more, the way you cook them doesn’t make them any less gluten free. Scrambling, poaching, frying or boiling them, none of these cooking methods add gluten to your delicious eggs.
For almost all of us, then, we don’t have to worry about eating eggs as part of our gluten-free diet. On their own, they are naturally gluten-free. The only way they can be made to contain gluten is by human intervention. The main way is through cooking. Let’s look at this scenario in a bit more detail.
The one time that you have to be careful with eggs is when they are used in cooking. When eggs are subject to cooking, they are at high risk of not becoming gluten-free because of mixing with other ingredients. If you are cooking the eggs yourself in your own kitchen, you should be fine. After all, if you are a celiac or follow a gluten-free diet, you probably won’t have any glutenous ingredients in the kitchen. It’s when you eat out—whether at a friend’s or a restaurant—that you need to be careful. For example, many breakfast diners will cook their eggs on the same grill that they use to cook pancakes and other wheat-based dishes. That means even if you have a gluten-free meal like eggs and bacon, you could still risk contamination. Worse still, some restaurants may mix gluten ingredients into seemingly gluten-free dishes. A common one is a little bit of pancake batter being mixed into scrambled egg. An unsuspecting celiac wouldn’t know that this is practiced in the restaurant without being forewarned. If you are eating out, the best way to avoid eating eggs that contain gluten is by asking for them to be cooked in a clean plan with clean utensils. That way, as long as the restaurant does that, you should be safe.
Many celiacs and gluten-free advocates worry about eggs laid by chickens that eat corn and other grains as part of their diet. They are right to be worried as it would be almost impossible to avoid eating eggs produced by chickens on these kinds of diets in the U.S. Virtually every egg-laying chicken will eat some grains as it is much cheaper for farmers.
Luckily, these people don’t have to worry. As of writing, there has been no scientific study that suggests soy or grain can be carried through and passed on in the eggs (or even the meat) of chickens. Current scientific information actually indicates otherwise.
Two leading egg-based organizations—the American Egg Board (AEB) and the Egg Nutrition Center (ENC)—have been asked this same question repeatedly. To come to a definitive answer, they actually enlisted the help of Dr. Steven Taylor from FARRP (the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program) at the University of Nebraska to compile a study. In his report, Dr. Taylor confirmed that eggs should be considered gluten free. In the study, Dr. Taylor makes the valid point that many gluten-free products contain eggs and none of them have tested positive for gluten. When chickens do eat grains, their body breaks them down into base amino acids that the body uses or dispels as waste. That means no protein can possibly be passed on to the egg—or indeed the meat—of the chicken.
In case you were wondering, the same is also the case for soy. That, too, does not get passed on to the egg if the chicken consumes it as part of their diet.
In related reading, check out masks made with egg whites.
You can rest assured that eggs do not contain gluten. This means they should be perfectly safe for celiacs and those on a non-gluten diet to consume in any quantity they want, within reason. However, if you have a bad experience with eggs or feel that you do not digest them well, you may have a separate non-gluten issue, which means that you should refrain from eating eggs where possible. Ultimately, the decision comes down to you. You should feel free to eat as many or as few eggs as you want on your gluten-free diet. Eggs definitely do not have gluten.