Let's cut right to the chase, shall we? I want to inform you that sushi rice isn't always gluten-free! And you NEED to know this if you have Celiac Disease. It appears that there is misinformation given by doctors, health experts, the web, and restaurants in regards to the safety of sushi rice for people with Celiac Disease. In short, hidden gluten CAN lurk anywhere, especially in Sushi Rice. If you have mystery symptoms, it could be from this alone.
So to be a bit more specific, it's not DRY packaged sushi rice that you buy in the store that is the issue. It's the treatment applied to the rice after it's cooked by restaurants to make it MORE sticky. This is where you have to be weary.
When you go to a restaurant, or pick up sushi from your nearest market or lunch place, know that you cannot just assume it is safe because you are using gluten-free soy sauce, or skipping the spicy mayo and eel sauce.
Most restaurants use a treatment that is applied to the sushi rice after it is cooked to make it even more sticky and often this treatment is a combination of gluten (wheat) and sugar.
Woah right? Who would have thought?
In fact, I didn't for years. I had no idea. I found this out back in 2012. I was having HORRIBLY VIOLENT headaches every time I ate sushi, which was often at that time. But I didn't make the connection, even with mystery symptoms. As far as I was concerned sushi was gluten-free and so was rice.
And rice IS gluten-free, but there is a fraction of Celiac's that have trouble processing rice in general (that was not me), and then there are sushi restaurants that treat their sushi rice with wheat/gluten to make it more sticky, often causing gluten-symptoms to arise in Celiac's (this was me).
It was my doctor at the time who made the connection. She had informed me of articles written by other doctor's arguing rice as a sensitivity similar to the reaction of gluten in Celiac patients, while in other articles sushi rice not always being suitable for Celiac's. In fact she kept telling me about this new rice sensitivity vs. unsuitable sushi rice theory. But I couldn't believe it! I thought, "no way!". I thought "what am I going to eat now?". I thought "but it was never an issue before, surely it's something else?". When she explained further that the rice was treated, not only was I annoyed and shocked, but kept wondering why they would need to add a gluten treatment to something that is naturally gluten-free. I mean really!
So as an experiment, I immediately eliminated sushi rice rolls and purely stuck with sashimi and low and behold the headaches stopped. It was that fast. And so I promised myself I would steer clear of sushi rolls at all costs forever and ever.
Since then, I have done more investigation and some research into the fine print and here is what I Now Know:
- IT'S NOT ALL RESTAURANTS THAT TREAT THE RICE TO MAKE IT MORE STICKY. Only SOME restaurants do this. And because it varies from restaurant to restaurant, you will have to ask to find out.
- Brown rice is NOT treated with this gluten treatment. This treatment is NOT applied to brown rice, so brown rice sushi rolls are a good option for Celiac's too.
Effective ways to find out which rice is suitable for your dietary needs:
- Ask Questions!
- Ask the source, be direct! Do NOT ask the waiter or the manager. Go right up to the sushi chef and as directly because THEY WILL know.
- Ask the Sushi Chef's if they using anything to treat the rice after it is cooked. Do they use a treatment using wheat to make it more sticky, or is it just rice made with water and that's it? As exactly what the ingredients are that go into the treatment.
- The treatment is ONLY used on white rice. It is NOT used on brown rice. But because Celiac Disease is serious, ask questions anyway.
I know it seems silly, or a bit OCD to always ask so many questions, but this is a matter of health. It's a matter of YOUR health. And without good health, your body and your mind will suffer. So it's worth it!! (Even if you are on a first date, and you are worried the guy sitting across from you will think you're bonkers...It's still worth it to ask).
So back to my "I thought I'd be deprived without Sushi" thought. This is simply not true. Because there are SOME restaurants that do NOT use this treatment. (Yay! There is a god!).
You also have two other divinely delicious options in case your favorite place does use this treatment.
- One is called brown rice sushi. There should be some comfort in knowing you can have brown rice sushi. Above is my snazzy shot of brown rice salmon sushi!
- Your second option is called Sashimi. (no rice, no seaweed)
I know it's not ideal. But it ends up being a glass half empty or glass half full perspective.
Love & Gluten-Free Sushi,
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