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There are several challenges to gluten-free living, but fortunately, candy is one area in which it can be forgiving. Gluten-free candies are candy products that do not contain gluten, the protein found in wheat and other grains that affect people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Gluten can be found in many different food products, most commonly breads and grains. There is a wide range for gluten-free candies to choose from to squelch a sweet tooth.
Chocolate is the predominate, and perhaps most favorable, ingredient in the vast majority of gluten-free candies, followed closely by sugar. This is not to say that any chocolate candy is gluten-free, but only that chocolate itself is a non-gluten food. The presence of gluten in candies occurs when ingredients, such as wheat or barley are added, or when flavoring and fillers are added to the preparation process.
Individuals who are in pursuit of gluten-free candies should avoid candy with wafers, pretzels, or cookie pieces included. Additionally, they must read labels closely to ensure that modified food starches and natural flavorings are identified. For instance, malt flavoring is an indicator of gluten. Modified food starches other than those from corn, potato, millet or other safe grains are also culprits. Many manufacturers list ingredients containing wheat either in the ingredient list itself or as a footnote afterward, so check labels closely.
Other gluten-free candies are of the hard candy variety. Mints, butterscotch candies, and other flavored hard candies are widely available with no gluten. The primary ingredients are simply sugar and flavoring. Again, be sure to check labels for those ingredients and if unsure, check with the manufacturer.
There are some candies, especially those that are chewy or “gummy,” that are likely contain gluten. The only way to know for sure is to check the label; learn to read labels and recognize the ingredients. Be aware of cross-contamination as well. Some candies that do not contain ingredients with the gluten may be manufactured or processed on lines that also manufacture gluten-containing products. If your sensitivity to gluten is such that cross-contamination can affect you, its best to look for products made specifically gluten-free.
One source for guaranteed gluten-free candies is the local whole foods or health food retailer. The products sold at these stores are designed with specific dietary needs in mind and their labels will be much easier to decipher. Granted, the candies and food products sold there will likely be more expensive, but it is an easy way to find the foods you want and need. In regular retailers, convenience stores, and chain stores, your best bet for gluten-free candies is simple chocolate bars, chocolate coated peanuts or raisins, and hard candies without artificial flavorings, malt flavorings, or unidentified foods starches.