What Is Gluten-Free Bread?

Gluten is a kind of protein, commonly found in cereals. Proteins can be thought of as the building blocks of the human body; eating protein-rich foods is important for growth and tissue repair. 

 Gluten is found in a variety of sources, including:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Oats

Since gluten is found in a variety of sources, this means that gluten can be found in many different foods, from pizza and pasta to bread, cakes, breakfast cereals and biscuits.

Gluten-free bread is bread that is not made from any of these gluten-containing cereals. Some cereals don’t contain any gluten at all, and they are used to make gluten-free bread. These include: 

  • Rice flour
  • Sorghum flour
  • Almond flour
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Cassava flour

If proteins are good for the body, then why do some people opt for gluten-free bread? In this article, we will dive into what science tells us about gluten and gluten-free bread to help us make well-informed dietary choices.

About gluten-free bread

Health benefits of gluten-free bread

  1. It is easy on the gut

Gluten can trigger the immune system to attack the body’s own cells within the digestive system. This condition is known as coeliac disease.1 The lining of the small intestine is damaged, so it is no longer able to absorb nutrients from food. This causes symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhoea, indigestion and bloating. Switching to gluten-free bread can help treat and manage the symptoms of coeliac disease.1 

Sensitivity to wheat is not always an autoimmune response. Some people have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) which is also known simply as gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance, while others have gluten-sensitive irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).2 Both NGCS and gluten-sensitive IBS have similar symptoms to coeliac disease and can be managed by changing to a gluten-free diet.2

  1. Gluten can affect hormonal balance

Eating food that contains gluten can increase the level of cortisol in the body.3 Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and released into the bloodstream when we are stressed. In the short term, an increased cortisol level can be helpful because it prepares the body to take action to deal with the stressful situation. It does this by making sure there is enough energy for the body to use and take action as part of our “fight or flight” response. However, a chronically high level of cortisol is bad for our health. Over the long term, it can suppress the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to illnesses.

  1. Gluten can cause mood problems

 The hormonal imbalances caused by eating gluten can possibly cause changes like depression in certain individuals.4 Depression is characterised by persistent negative thoughts, low mood, anhedonia (a lack of pleasure from things that you used to enjoy), changes in diet (eating too little or too much) and changes in sleep pattern (difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much).

A word of caution

There are, nevertheless, some disadvantages to adopting a gluten-free diet. Gluten provides the body with vitamins and minerals, therefore a gluten-free diet may increase the likelihood of developing a nutritional deficiency. Gluten-free bread tends to be lower in B vitamins and iron compared to regular bread. A lack of iron in the body can cause conditions such as anaemia, which is marked by tiredness, low energy and pale skin. 

Another factor to consider is that gluten-free bread contains high amounts of sugar and little dietary fibre. A high-sugar diet can possibly result in weight gain and diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease when combined with other factors. Also, high sugar intake can affect the ability of the intestine to protect itself from infections.5 This means that eating food that is high in sugar can make us more susceptible to intestinal infections. Since gluten-free bread also typically has a low fibre content, a gluten-free diet can make constipation and other digestive problems more likely.

Lastly, a gluten-free diet can have some negative psychological effects. For example, it is often necessary to check the ingredients list of each food item to make sure it is gluten-free. The need to be vigilant when making choices about what food to purchase can be stressful. People on a gluten-free diet have to be careful not to buy any food that contains gluten, and this can be mentally straining. It is often necessary to check the ingredients list of each food item to make sure it is gluten-free. The range of gluten-free options in restaurants can be limited as well, which can negatively affect the eating-out experience. It is not uncommon for people with coeliac disease who have switched to a gluten-free diet to suffer from anxiety.6 

What does it taste like

In regular bread, wheat gluten helps to hold the dough together because of its sticky, elastic texture. This makes the bread softer and less crumbly. In contrast, gluten-free bread is less stretchy because it lacks elastic gluten. 

Depending on the kind of flour used, the taste of gluten-free bread will vary from mild to strong, and others may be sweet or nutty. For example, rice flour has a lighter, sweeter flavour than sorghum flour. It is advisable to try different types of gluten-free bread to see which one is to your taste.

Xanthan gum is usually added to gluten-free bread to improve its viscosity or ‘stickiness’. Xanthan gum is a food additive used as a gluten substitute. It is a man-made, nondigestible powder that mixes well with water and helps to improve the texture of gluten-free bread.

Best gluten-free bread in your diet

The best gluten-free bread will differ from person to person, but to make this decision easier, it helps to consider:

  1. Nutritional content

Before making your purchase, compare the nutritional content of different kinds of gluten-free bread, paying particular attention to fibre (the higher the better), sugars (the lower the better) and vitamins and minerals (the higher the better).

  1. The price

Gluten-free bread can be more expensive than regular bread, particularly the more popular types. The gluten-free bread you choose will need to fit into your budget.

  1. The taste

As stated before, different types of gluten-free bread will have different tastes. Some may be to your preference, while others may not be at all.


While most supermarkets will usually have gluten-free bread, some types may be more difficult to find or may only be available online.

Difference between regular bread and gluten-free bread

What are the differences between regular bread and gluten-free bread?

Gluten breadGluten-free bread
TextureSoft and spongy due to gluten’s elastic propertiesMore brittle though helped by the addition of xanthan gum
TasteIs made from wheat flour and tends to have a uniform taste without flavouringIs made from different types of flours, leading to the possibility of a variety of tastes
VolumeBigger volumeMore dense
Shelf-lifeMaintains sponginess for longerBecomes more brittle in a shorter period of time


Gluten is an elastic protein found in cereals like wheat, which is used to make pasta, bread and cakes. Gluten gives regular bread its soft, spongy texture but it can also cause digestive problems for people with coeliac disease or other gluten sensitivities. It can affect our hormone levels and mood when accompanied by other factors. Gluten-free bread is made from cereals that don’t contain any gluten in them and differs from regular bread in texture, taste, volume and shelf-life. 


  1. Xhakollari V, Canavari M, Osman M. Why people follow a gluten-free diet? An application of health behaviour models. Appetite [Internet]. 2021 Jun 1 [cited 2023 Jan 5];161:105136. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666321000441
  2. Catassi C, Alaedini A, Bojarski C, Bonaz B, Bouma G, Carroccio A, et al. The overlapping area of non-celiac gluten sensitivity (Ncgs) and wheat-sensitive irritable bowel syndrome (Ibs): an update. Nutrients [Internet]. 2017 Nov [cited 2023 Jan 5];9(11):1268. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/11/1268
  3. Stovern S, Metelmann L, Milstroh J. Perceived stress, cortisol, breath hydrogen, and gastrointestinal symptoms after consumption of gluten and inulin in adults with and without irritable bowel syndrome. Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity Day [Internet]. 2022 Apr 21; Available from: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/ur_cscday/181
  4. Peters SL, Biesiekierski JR, Yelland GW, Muir JG, Gibson PR. Randomised clinical trial: gluten may cause depression in subjects with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity - an exploratory clinical study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther [Internet]. 2014 May [cited 2023 Jan 5];39(10):1104–12. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/apt.12730
  5. Arnone D, Chabot C, Heba AC, Kökten T, Caron B, Hansmannel F, et al. Sugars and gastrointestinal health. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology [Internet]. 2022 Sep 1 [cited 2023 Jan 5];20(9):1912-1924.e7. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1542356521013057
  6. Häuser W, Janke KH, Klump B, Gregor M, Hinz A. Anxiety and depression in adult patients with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet. World J Gastroenterol [Internet]. 2010 Jun 14 [cited 2023 Jan 5];16(22):2780–7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2883134/
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Karabo Sibasa

Doctor of Philosophy - PhD, Psychology,The University of Manchester

Karabo has a BSc in Biochemistry and is currently doing a PhD in Psychology at the University of Manchester. She has a background in teaching and research, and is interested in health, science communication and education.

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