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Do Corn and Other Grains Have Gluten?


Greetings Fellow Gourmets!

village terrace rice filed Baitong 333

(Image Courtesy of Baitong333 - FreeDigitalPhotos.Net)

Recently during a conversation on gluten-free food choices, the question was raised as to whether or not corn contains gluten. 

At outset, one would say absolutely not. However there is more to it than meets the eye. The issue is two-fold. 

Primarily, from an intrinsic point of view, corn has proteins just as wheat has proteins. Most of our common grains contain some kind of soluble or insoluble protein. These are actually prolamins. One hears of the term "glutinous" rice in Asian cuisine. Of course these are generally known to be perfectly fine for celiacs. Why is that? 


Each grass based plant, or grain has a differently named protein used for future growth, and certainly they have different chemical makeup and 'behavioral' characteristics. According to Encyclopedia Britannica Online, " Gliadin from wheat contains 14 percent by weight of poline, 45 percent of glutamine and very little lysine. Hordein is the prolamin from barley, zein is that from corn" (EB online)

The term gluten, in its commonly used form comes from the unwashable elastic protein mass remaining in wheat, and this term has been extended to rye, which is a close relative of wheat. ( Wheat, rye, and barley are all from the family Pooiadae the subfamily of the Poaceae family of grasses. (

For celiacs, the prolamins in wheat produce peptides during digestion that trigger dangerous gastrointestinal responses and other issues discussed in the original post. While some individuals may indeed have a separate sensitivity to corn with its inherent zein prolamin, it could not at all be said that these prolamins are derived from gluten. Gluten is comprised of gliadin and glutenin in wheat and closely related grains. 


Now for another issue. Corn, in and of itself should not contain Celiac-harmful gluten, BUT going back to how food is processed, it is entirely possible that commonly sourced corn in volume corn based products, cornmeal, and the like could at some point be cross-contaminated with wheat or gluten during processing. Therefore the need remains and grows for gluten-free certification and labeling at the manufacturing level. This helps consumers distinguish low-gluten foods from gluten-free foods. One area to watch especially is breaders and baking mixes also processed in facilities that use wheat! In such instances, it would be best to source cornmeal or gluten-free milled products from Gluten-Free Certified facilities. 

Please see earlier posts for a full discussion of gluten-free certification programs offered.

This was not a paid or endorsed post.

Disclaimer: This article is informational only and not to be construed as medical advice. Please reference a registered dietician or medical and legal professional for specific issues.


Celiac Disease -

Encyclopedia Britannica



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