Is Sugar Gluten Free? What You Need To Know

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Heaps of brown and white sugar are spread on the table

Is Sugar Gluten-Free | Does all sugar have gluten | Understanding Gluten

With the rise in gluten intolerance and celiac disease, people are becoming increasingly concerned about the ingredients that go into their food. 

Sugar is a commonly used ingredient in many foods and beverages. But is sugar gluten free? 

Here, we explore and analyze the relationship between sugar and gluten to give you a better picture of whether you can have sugar while on a gluten-free diet.

Is Sugar Gluten Free?

Yes, sugar is gluten-free. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is extracted from various sources, such as sugarcane, sugar beets, and corn. It does not contain gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other gluten containing grains like triticale. 

However, it is important to note that some flavored or specialty sugars may contain gluten, so it is essential to read labels carefully before consuming them. 

Overall, sugar is a naturally gluten-free ingredient that can be safely consumed as part of a gluten-free diet.

Does all sugar have gluten?

We know now that in its common and basic forms, sugar is essentially gluten-free. However, modern markets are bustling with several new varieties of sugar. It is, therefore, important to ensure that the type of sugar you purchase is genuinely gluten-free. 

If you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, avoid any products that contain ingredients derived from wheat, barley, or rye or may have been contaminated by the same.

Read food labels carefully to determine if a product contains gluten. Look for products that are certified gluten-free by reputable organizations like Gluten-Free Certification Organization(GFCO) [1]Gluten-Free Certification Organization: The Leader in Gluten-Free Certification

What Sugar is Gluten-Free?

Most commonly available forms of sugar including white sugar, brown sugar, and artificial sweeteners are gluten-free. Natural sweeteners and pure sugar varieties such as honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar are also gluten-free, as they are not derived from grains that contain gluten.

1.White Sugar

White sugar, which is the most commonly used form of sugar, is gluten-free. It is a highly processed product that is typically made from sugar cane or sugar beets. During the refining process, any trace amounts of gluten that may have been present are removed, making it safe for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

2.Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is gluten-free. It is a mixture of white sugar and molasses, which is a byproduct of the refining process. The molasses used to make brown sugar does not contain gluten, and any gluten that may be present in the white sugar is removed during the refining process. This makes brown sugar gluten-free. 

Additionally, dark brown sugar, alternatively known as Muscovado sugar(unrefined cane sugar with natural molasses) is also gluten free. 

3. Stevia

Stevia is a natural, non-nutritive sweetener [2]ScienceDirect: Nonnutritive Sweetener that is derived from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant. It does not contain gluten naturally, and it is not a source of gluten. 

However, some stevia products may be processed or manufactured in facilities that also process gluten-containing ingredients, so it is possible for cross-contamination to occur. 

4. Honey

Honey is one of the healthiest among natural sugars. It is a sweet, sticky liquid produced by bees from the nectar of flowers, and it does not contain any grains or gluten-containing ingredients. Thus honey is gluten-free in it’s basic form.

However, it is important to be aware that some flavored or processed honey products may contain gluten.

5. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose, are chemically synthesized compounds that are not derived from any grains. Therefore most artificial sweeteners do not contain gluten.

What Sugar is Not Gluten-Free?

While most forms of sugar are gluten-free, there are some exceptions. Some specialty sugars, such as malt sugar and barley sugar, are not gluten-free as they are made from grains that contain gluten. 

1. Wheat syrup

Wheat syrup is a sweetener that is commonly used in processed foods, beverages, and baked goods. 

However, wheat is a gluten-containing grain, so wheat syrup is not gluten-free. Individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance should avoid consuming wheat syrup to prevent gluten-related health problems. 

2. Malt sugar

Malt sugar, also known as maltose, is not gluten-free as it is derived from malted grains like barley, which contains gluten. Malt sugar is a type of sweetener that is often used in baking and brewing. People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance may experience symptoms of intolerance if they consume malt sugar products or foods that contain it.

3. Dextrin

Dextrin is a type of sugar that is commonly used as a thickener or binding agent in food products. 

Since dextrin is often derived from wheat, which is a gluten-containing grain, it is not gluten-free.

There are several gluten-free alternatives to dextrin, like tapioca starch or cornstarch. These can easily be used as thickeners in gluten-free recipes.

Understanding Gluten

Gluten is a type of protein [3]Celiac Disease Foundation: What is Gluten? found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It is what gives dough its elasticity and helps bread rise. Gluten is made up of two main proteins: glutenin and gliadin [4]ACS Chemistry for life: Attack of the Gluten.

For people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can have negative effects on their health.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body reacts to gluten, causing damage to the small intestine and preventing absorption of nutrients. Symptoms of celiac disease can include diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, and fatigue.

Gluten intolerance or sensitivity is a less severe condition than celiac disease, but can still cause discomfort and digestive issues. Symptoms can include bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

How much gluten is acceptable in any food?

According to the FDA’s regulatory definition,[5]U.S. Food & Drug Administration: ‘Gluten-Free’ Means What It Says foods must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten to be categorized as gluten-free. This is considered a safe level of gluten for most people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Only products that meet this standard are labelled gluten-free. 


In conclusion, sugar is a naturally gluten-free ingredient that can be safely consumed by people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, it is essential to read labels carefully, especially for flavored or specialty sugars that may contain gluten. Understanding the role of gluten in food and its potential sources is critical for individuals with gluten intolerance to make informed decisions about their diet.


1 Gluten-Free Certification Organization: The Leader in Gluten-Free Certification
2 ScienceDirect: Nonnutritive Sweetener
3 Celiac Disease Foundation: What is Gluten?
4 ACS Chemistry for life: Attack of the Gluten
5 U.S. Food & Drug Administration: ‘Gluten-Free’ Means What It Says

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