If you are unable to tolerate gluten, you may be wondering, can celiacs eat feta cheese?
Does feta cheese actually contain any gluten?
What about the liquid that it is preserved in?
Is there any way that feta can be cross-contaminated by gluten?
These are serious questions that deserve an accurate answer, as your health could be adversely affected.
Feta cheese is generally safe for individuals with celiac disease, as it is gluten-free. It’s still important to check the packaging for any potential gluten-containing ingredients, although this is unlikely. Cubed or crumbled feta may have wheat starch or modified food starch to prevent clumping, so check for those. When buying sliced feta from a deli counter, ensure the staff uses a clean knife to avoid cross-contamination.
Is Feta Cheese Gluten-Free?
If you have celiac disease, then naturally, you will need to avoid gluten so as not to damage your small intestine.
This can be a concern, as it is not always immediately obvious if gluten is in your favorite foods.
However, thankfully, feta cheese is gluten-free and can be safely consumed.
But, as always, to be on the safe side, there are some things to be aware of.
First of all, read the packaging carefully, and look for a mention of either modified food starch or wheat starch.
A block of feta is unlikely to contain starch.
But if it is already cubed or crumbled when you purchase it, then the starch could have been added to stop the individual pieces of cheese from sticking together.
Another possible risk is that of cross-contamination.
If you buy your cheese from a deli counter and it is sliced from a larger block, always ask if the knife is clean and has not been used previously without having been washed.
Does Feta Cheese Have Any Health Risks?
The most obvious thing to note with feta cheese is that it is made from milk.
Therefore, if you are lactose intolerant, then feta cheese is not for you.
In fact, as it is an unripened cheese, it has a higher lactose content than most other cheeses.
Feta is also very high in salt, with a sodium level of up to 312g in just a single one-ounce serving.
Not only is salt added during the cheesemaking process, but the feta is also stored in brine with a concentration of up to 7% salt.
This obviously makes feta cheese unsuitable for anybody on a low-sodium diet.
However, some of the salt can be removed by washing the feta before serving.
If pregnant women eat products containing unpasteurized milk, then it can pose a risk of getting listeria which can harm the baby.
Care needs to be taken to establish if the feta cheese is made from unpasteurized milk.
For those with kidney disease, there is a very small risk from feta cheese.
Feta contains a tiny amount of phosphorus which can weaken bones for those who have compromised kidney function.
What Food to Eat If You Have Celiac Disease?
Feta cheese is gluten-free and can be safely eaten by those with celiac disease.
However, the packaging should be read carefully to ensure no starch-based ingredients have been added.
Cros-contamination from unclean knives is a possible risk.
Other health hazards to be aware of with feta cheese are the high sodium content and the fact that it is made from milk.
Pregnant women should avoid feta cheese made from unpasteurized milk.
Please enjoy your feta cheese responsibly!
Always consult your health professional if you have any concerns regarding your diet.
And in another health-related question, I have discussed whether feta gives you acne.