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Which Soft-Drinks Are Gluten-Free?

Most non-alcoholic beverages, such as sodas and juices, are made from ingredients that do not naturally contain gluten. But that does not mean you can be careless if you are sensitive to gluten. Always check product labeling for ingredients derived from barley, wheat and rye to make sure the beverage is safe for you to drink.

Gluten Free Soda and Carbonated Beverages

When it comes to sweet carbonated beverages like coke or Pepsi, the main ingredient that can potentially contaminate them with gluten is the caramel color. Caramel can be made from wheat, corn, sugar cane or sugar beet, so it may or may not contain traces of gluten. In the US and Canada caramel is mostly derived from corn syrup whereas in Europe sugar beet and wheat are also frequently used. Therefore, most carbonated soft-drinks in North America are gluten-free. The Coca-Cola Company in the US claims that all their caramel color is made from corn or sugar-cane. A list of gluten free colas includes Coca-Cola (regular) Coca-Cola Classic, Caffeine Free Coke, Caffeine Free Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke, Cherry Coke Zero, Diet Coke, Diet Coke Plus, Diet Cherry Coke, Diet Coke with Lime, Vanilla Coke and Vanilla Coke Plus. Additional gluten-free sodas from the Coca-Cola Company are Barq’s Root Beer and Red Creme Soda, Fanta and Sprite and their variations.

Likewise, PepsiCo ensures their customers in North America that all their carbonated beverages, including Pepsi, Pepsi One, Pepsi Next, Cherry Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Vanilla and all other flavor variations of Pepsi, are free of gluten. Other popular gluten-free carbonated soft-drinks by PepsiCo are 7up, Dr. Pepper, A&W’s Root Beer, Mug Root Beer, Mug Cream Soda, Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist and Sunkist.

The European Union does not require allergen labelling for glucose syrup, so you will not know whether it is wheat-based or not. However, manufacturers are committed to ensure a maximum gluten level of 20ppm (i.e., 20 molecules of gluten per million molecules of drink) in the product containing wheat-based glucose syrup. This corresponds to the limit for “gluten-free” labelling. Many of the aforementioned carbonated soft-drinks sold in North America are also available in Europe where they are also considered to be gluten-free. However, they can still contain traces of gluten (under 20ppm). Although most celiacs do not need to worry about these microscopic traces of gluten, it is up to each individual to decide whether they think these beverages are safe for them to drink.

Is Every Fruit Juice Gluten Free?

In general, any fruit and vegetable juice should be gluten-free because it is not made from grains. However, most fruit and vegetable drinks are not 100% juice. Juice drinks are made from fruit and/or vegetable concentrates, water and additives, which may contain gluten. Therefore, you should read product labels to make sure the drink contains no additives derived from wheat, barley or rye. Because of their many ingredients and more complex processing, these drinks are also more likely to be cross-contaminated with gluten than 100% juice. Hence, only 100% juice product, especially fresh fruit or vegetable juice with no preservatives, is guaranteed to be gluten-free.

Are Energy Drinks Gluten Free?

Energy drinks contain a stimulant drug (mostly caffeine) and any number of ingredients such as flavorings, sweeteners, vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts and amino acids. Generally, energy drinks are considered to be gluten-free and suitable for people with gluten sensitivity. However, the more additives they have, the higher the risk of contamination with gluten. Therefore, always read the product label carefully and better avoid those with too many additives.

Are Sports Drinks Gluten Free?

Sports drinks are supposed to help athletes to replace lost electrolytes and nutrients and thus promote rehydration after intensive training session or competition. Some of them can be regarded as gluten-free but most of them are not. Since they contain a diverse mix of ingredients, even those that are considered gluten-free may still contain traces of gluten, however, below the allowable threshold of 20ppm. Patients with celiac disease are advised to stick to those few that have been formulated as gluten-free to 20ppm, such as Gatorade and G2 (PepsiCo) or Powerade (Coca-Cola Co.). However, people who are extremely sensitive to gluten, even at levels below 20ppm, should better stay away from sport drinks.

Does Coffee Contain Gluten?

Coffee beans naturally do not contain gluten, so coffee can be considered as a gluten-free beverage. But, highly-processed instant coffee may contain gluten-bearing ingredients or, in some cases, it can be cross-contaminated with gluten if processed in a facility that also handles grains with gluten. In addition, highly-processed flavored coffees are also known to cause gluten cross-reactivity in sensitive individuals. This means that patients who are on a gluten-free diet can still experience gluten-related symptoms if they regularly consume coffee. Therefore, it may be sometimes difficult to determine whether gluten-related symptoms are due to traces of gluten found in coffee or due to gluten cross-reactivity induced by coffee intake. Additionally, if you like to add cream to your coffee, make sure that coffee creamer is gluten-free. And, if you want to play it safe, better avoid specialty coffee drinks.

As you can see, gluten can lurk in almost anything we drink. It is present in various carbonated soft-drinks, juice drinks, energy and sports drinks and even in instant coffee and specialty coffee drinks. Not surprisingly, some alcoholic beverages may also be hiding gluten. For information on safe alcohol for people with gluten intolerance, please refer to this article.