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Does Whey Have Gluten?

Elise Deming, RDN
Measuring scoop of whey powder

Whey is naturally gluten-free. This form of protein contains zero gluten, however, circumstances exist where whey could be contaminated with gluten.

Pure Whey

Whey is a protein resulting from the separation of milk's two components; casein and whey. In its most natural and pure state, whey is just concentrated protein and contains no gluten. However, most protein powders are not just pure whey. Most consist of a combination of ingredients. Additionally, many powders could be contaminated, making it critical to analyze the label to ensure your whey doesn't contain gluten.

The Big Debate

Currently, in the world of protein powders, a debate is going on surrounding an amino acid called glutamine. This amino acid has nothing to do with gluten. However, some health professionals state that glutamine can be derived from any protein source including wheat. Once extracted, glutamine is then added to whey protein powders for additional protein and nutrients. Companies rarely identify on the label if their glutamine came from a wheat source.

The problem is that there is no scientific research available to show if glutamine causes damage to individuals with Celiac or gluten sensitivity. As a gluten-free consumer, this makes it very difficult to choose a whey protein containing glutamine without rolling the die. Therefore it is recommended that individuals with Celiac disease avoid powders with glutamine on the basis of extreme caution. Luckily, there are many gluten- and glutamine-free whey powders available on the market.

How to Pick a Gluten-Free Whey

  1. Look for the gluten-free certification. This means the company has undergone a third-party audit and meets strict gluten-free standards.
  2. Chose whey proteins with minimal additional ingredients to minimize the risk of contamination.
  3. Check the ingredient label. Look for words like wheat, oat, barley, rye, malt, and to be safe, glutamine.

Gluten-Free Whey Protein

In the growing world of protein powders, there are some excellent gluten and glutamine-free whey powders available to consumers. These include:

  • Primal Kitchen, Primal Fuel - Primal Kitchen produces a gluten-free, all natural whey powder (under $40 for a two-pound jar). Available in chocolate and vanilla, this powder also contains beneficial probiotics.
  • Naked Whey - This whey powder only contains one ingredient: whey. The company prides itself on being gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO. The powders are also free from artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors (under $90 for a five-pound container).
  • Natural Force Organic Whey - Available in coffee, chocolate, or vanilla, this whey protein is gluten-free and organic (under $30 for a 14.6-oz canister). It is sweetened with stevia, making it low in sugar.

Gluten-Free Whey

Whey is naturally gluten-free. However, whey can become contaminated with gluten when processed or combined with other ingredients. To ensure you are getting the safest gluten-free product possible, check to see if your whey is certified gluten-free, there is no gluten in the ingredient list, and if needed, call the manufacturer.

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Does Whey Have Gluten?