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What gluten-free bread is made of: 2019 scientific research

First of all, we’d like to say that our aim is to help you make informed food choices. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to go for gluten-free breads or to stick to our regular “daily bread.”

While going for the gluten-free loaf isn’t an option for many people, having a better understanding of what is in your gluten-free substitutes can be a useful tool in helping you to maintain a nutritionally balanced, healthy diet.

If you want to switch to gluten-free breads, before doing so, you have to read this recent scientific report: Laura Roman, Mayara Belorio, and Manuel Gomez (2019) “Gluten-Free Breads: The Gap Between Research and Commercial Reality” Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, Vol. 18, 2019, 690-702. This research expands the current knowledge on gluten-free breads manufacturing, giving a panoramic outlook on the current situation in the gluten-free bread market

In 2019, a group of scientists examined the ingredients in 228 commercially available gluten-free breads from 12 countries.

A long list of ingredients was observed in commercial gluten free breads, with the presence of a wide range of additives, including acidifiers, emulsifiers, leavening agents, preservatives, and aromas or flavourings. A breakdown of ingredients showed that gluten free breads have seven groups of ingredients, all with various roles to play.

It’s what gluten-free bread made of

Flours and starches

The results from studying the ingredient list of breads revealed that commercial breads do not tend to use a single starchy source or gluten replacer, but a combination of several ingredients to optimize bread quality.

Flours and starches play an important role in texture and taste quality. In the “regular” supermarket breads, the top ingredient is wheat flour. Gluten-free breads contain various combinations of modified tapioca starch, rice flour, soy flour and maize starch. A combination produces better texture and volume, rather than using any of these flours and starches would on their own.

  • Maize starch improves volume, but can cause a dry or crumbly texture.
  • Tapioca starch is good for texture but doesn’t produce the same volume as maize flour.
  • The modified tapioca starch used in gluten-free bread helps retain moisture and improve shelf life – a modification that is required because in its natural form, tapioca starch wouldn’t survive the baking process or frozen storage.
  • Rice flour improves texture but not volume.
  • Soy flour is found in both non-GF breads too, but only as a minor ingredient due to the sometimes unpopular flavour of soy that can influence the taste of bread.

Maize, tuber starches, and rice flour were the main starchy sources. The most common starchy materials used in most gluten‐free breads are rice flour and starches from maize and tubers.

Gluten replacers

The use of hydrocolloids as gluten substitutes is a common practice in the gluten free bread industry and hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC), also known as hypromellose, is the most widely used one. Like gluten, HPMC can trap air bubbles formed by the yeast in bread dough, causing the bread to rise.

Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose is produced from cellulose, a natural polymer and fiber, which is considered to be safe for human consumption.

But, there are some potential disadvantages that are not immediately obvious. HPMC is listed as a food ingredient – E464 – which means that recommended daily maximum quantities must be defined. HPMC undergoes a rigorous manufacturing process involving the synthetic – and not natural – alteration of cellulose. During production, various highly reactive, harmful or toxic substances are used that must be removed and disposed after production, including propylene oxide (which is considered to be carcinogenic) and chloromethane. Is the end product still natural?


Because gluten-free starches and flours are low in protein, egg white is added to boost the bread’s nutritional value. Egg proteins also help create a fine, uniform texture, and improve cohesion and springiness. Gluten free breads may contain soy protein, but still have less protein per 100 grams than the wheat breads.

However, even with these additions, gluten free breads are lower in protein than their wheat‐containing counterparts.

Fats and oils

Fats and oils improve moistness, shelf life, volume and softness. In general, the most commonly used oils are rapeseed or canola (33%), mainly in the English speaking countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Ireland), followed by sunflower oil (29%), which is more common in Mediterranean countries. Soybean oil is used mainly in Brazil (13%) and much less in Europe.

Generally, gluten-free breads have a much higher level of canola oil than wheat breads, contributing to the extra vegetable oil content.


Sugars are used to mimic the sugar characteristics and aroma of wheat bread. Gluten-free loaves list sugar in their top six ingredients, and contain more sugar than regular wheat bread.


These include raising agents, emulsifiers, preservatives, flavourings, aromas … too many to mention.

Other ingredients

All gluten-free breads are higher in salt per serving than their counterparts. They also contain vinegar, which assists the yeast, and reduces bread spoilage.

By law, wheat breads are enriched with thiamine and folic acid to help combat widespread nutritional deficiencies. Unfortunately, this regulation does not extend to gluten free breads, and as such neither of supermarket in gluten-free loaves were fortified with these important micronutrients.

The conclusion is:

Gluten-free breads are dramatically different from regular breads

The ingredient list of commercial enriched whole grain gluten-free bread

  1. brown rice flour
  2. tapioca starch
  3. corn starch, flax seeds
  4. sunflower seeds
  5. buckwheat flour
  6. thiamine (vitamin b1)
  7. riboflavin (vitamin b2)
  8. niacin
  9. iron
  10. folate
  11. water
  12. dried egg-white
  13. yeast
  14. citric acid
  15. soybean and/or canola oil
  16. chicory root inulin
  17. sugar
  18. xanthan gum
  19. salt
  20. vegetable monoglycerides
  21. calcium propionate
  22. modified cellusose
  23. sorbic acid
  24. calcium carbonate
  25. calcium pantothenate
  26. calcium sulphate
  27. pyridoxine hydrochloride
  28. tricalcium phosphate
  29. enzyme
  30. may contain sesame seeds and soy

The ingredient list of commercial gluten-free French-style baguettes

  1. water
  2. brown rice flour
  3. tapioca starch
  4. potato starch
  5. egg whites
  6. modified tapioca starch
  7. vegetable oil
  8. rice bran
  9. yeast
  10. xanthan gum
  11. salt
  12. dried cane syrup
  13. cultured corn syrup
  14. citric acid (mold inhibitor)
  15. lactic acid
  16. calcium sulphate
  17. alpha amylase
  18. fumaric acid
  19. egg

The ingredient list of commercial gluten-free banana loaf cake

  1. banana puree
  2. citric acid
  3. ascorbic acid
  4. sugar
  5. liquid whole egg
  6. soybean and/or canola oil
  7. rice flour
  8. corn starch
  9. modified corn starch
  10. amaranth flour
  11. quinoa flour
  12. brown rice flour
  13. baking powder
  14. dextrose
  15. tapioca starch
  16. potato starch
  17. soy lecithin
  18. natural flavour
  19. cellulose gum
  20. xanthan gum
  21. dried egg-white
  22. yeast
  23. baking soda
  24. salt
  25. amylase

The ingredient list of commercial organic whole wheat bread

  1. water
  2. organic whole wheat flour
  3. organic honey
  4. organic wheat bran
  5. organic sunflower oil
  6. wheat germ
  7. salt
  8. organic soy flour
  9. yeast
  10. soy

Now that you have the breakdown on what makes up your gluten-free loaf from the supermarket, it’s pretty apparent that gluten free bread is nutritionally vastly different from regular loaves.

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

What gluten-free bread is made of?

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