Is Non Alcoholic Cider Gluten Free? Is it different from beer?

Many people in todays world want to avoid gluten. This may be from Coeliac disease or another health reason but it can be difficult to find the facts of what food or drink contains gluten. Cider is often thought of in the same ilk as beer, which is usually gluten containing but what about the new breed of non alcoholic ciders? Is non alcoholic cider gluten free?

Is non alcoholic cider gluten free?

The good news is that basically all non alcoholic and alcohol free ciders are gluten free. Cider is made from apples not grains like beer. Apples do not contain gluten meaning cider is a naturally gluten free drink, both alcoholic and non alcoholic. Rarely some ciders have traces of gluten from their fermenting yeast so checking is advised.

Why are all non alcoholic ciders not gluten free?

As i have stated above, cider is naturally gluten free and the yeast used to ferment basically all cider is Champagne yeast, which is also naturally gluten free.

Brewers yeast

Rarely, a cider might be made with Brewers yeast which can contain gluten or have barley added for flavour. These cases are few and far between and you have an extremely high chance that any random non alcoholic cider or even alcoholic cider you try will be fully gluten free.

At this point it might be a good idea for a quick overview of just what gluten is, who can’t eat it, what foods you might find it in and what the definitions are around the gluten free terms you will see.

What is gluten?

The simple answer is, gluten is protein found in the cereals barley, rye and wheat. Some people also react to a similar protein found in oats. In reality, gluten is actually a family of storage proteins. These used to be known as prolamins. 

Many different prolamins fall under the gluten name brand. However they can be categorised on the specific grains in which they’re found.

Glutenins and gliadins are the prolamins in wheat, hordeins are in barley and secalins are in rye.

One of the main gluten benefits is the chewy texture that is characteristic of many gluten-containing foods

When you heat them, the gluten proteins form an elastic network that can stretch and trap some gas. This allows for the rising and maintenance of moisture in pasta and breads.

Who can’t eat gluten?

If you are unable to eat gluten containing food then you are said to have Celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, where your body attacks itself. It is generally a disease where someone has a genetic predisposition. It occurs in people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. 

Celiac disease probably effects 1 in 100 people worldwide with slightly higher numbers in the West. 2.5 million Americans are yet to be diagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.

What issues does gluten intolerance cause?

You classically think of an digestive issue and Celiac disease causing things like

  • abdominal bloating and pain
  • chronic diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • weight loss

Certainly these are the main presentations and symptoms of children but as you get older the disease changes.

Adults are actually less prone to the gastrointestinal issues, with only 1/3 experiencing diarrhoea. Adults present more with things like

  • unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
  • fatigue
  • bone or joint pain
  • arthritis
  • liver disorders 
  • depression 
  • tingling, numbness or pain in the hands and feet
  • seizures or migraines
  • missed menstrual periods
  • infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • itchy skin and rashes

What food stuffs is gluten in?

So if we know gluten is in the cereals (rye, wheat and barley) then you can guess the main food stuffs that a Celiac sufferer needs to avoid. 

The main groups you need to avoid in Celiac, unless they are labelled as gluten-free are…

  • bread
  • pasta
  • cereals
  • biscuits or crackers
  • cakes and pastries
  • pies
  • gravies and sauces

That list is a large chunk of my food intake and that of my family so you can see how restrictive a gluten free diet may become without gluten free alternatives.

What constitutes gluten free/gluten containing?

There is an official gluten level, enshrined in law, which stipulates what can be called gluten free or not. Food and drinks that contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) can legally be labelled ‘gluten free’. 

This can create some controversy. If a food or drink is not made with any gluten containing grains then it will inherently be completely gluten free. The parts per million should be zero. 

For a food or drink to have a detectable gluten level, but less than 20 ppm, gluten will have had to be removed as it will have been made (or partly made) from grains.

Gluten free cider

There are many advocates of a “gluten free” label and a “gluten removed”, to fit those 2 scenarios. There may be people with a very acute sensitivity to gluten for whom the 20 ppm level is still too high. These sufferers are best advised to follow a complete wheat free, gluten free diet. They should avoid so called gluten removed, gluten free products.

This may apply to specialist gluten free products like breads, flours and crackers, including foods that contain gluten free wheat starch, as well as processed foods which are made from naturally gluten free ingredients like soups, ready meals and snacks. 

The ‘gluten free’ label may also be used for uncontaminated oat products.

Research shows that this tiny amount of gluten is not toxic to people with celiac disease and they can eat unlimited amounts of products with gluten at a level of 20 ppm or less.

Does beer contain gluten?

Classic beer is made of just 4 ingredients. These are water, hops, malted grains (generally barley) and yeast. Wheat and the brewers yeast, saccharomyces cerevisiae, contain gluten. Other beers are brewed from wheat and rye in place of barley. Similarly these also contain gluten.

For a full overview of gluten in beer you can read my article here and for all the non alcoholic gluten free beers i have tried, you can see them all here

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