Is Gluten-Free the same as Vegan? With everybody nowadays having a dietary restriction, there is a lot of confusion on what it means to be gluten-free as well as what it means to be vegan.
To go straight to our point: No, gluten-free doesn’t mean vegan. In fact, they are two very different diets. While gluten-free diets exclude gluten, which is a protein found in some grains, veganism excludes all animal products.
Like you can imagine, just because something is gluten-free does not make it vegan, and vice versa. They are two separate dietary categories; although you can be both vegan and gluten-free at the same time.
Gluten-Free vs Vegan
To better understand why gluten-free doesn’t mean vegan, we’ll explore its details and differences.
What does Vegan mean?
To begin with, veganism is not only a diet but an ethical posture. It is seeks to stop all animal exploitation for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Vegans do not eat meat or animals based products such as, dairy, eggs, or honey. As a plant-based diet, veganism doesn’t have any concern about gluten. Furthermore, popular gluten-filled foods like bread, pasta, barley, and rye are staples on most vegan diets.
What does Gluten-Free mean?
A gluten-free diet excludes, as you can imagine, gluten. According to Medical News Today, gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt, and barley.
Gluten-free diets exclude any products containing gluten, such as bread, cereals, baked goods, and anything containing those potentially harmful gluten proteins.
People who adopt this way of eating, typically do it for health reasons, as there are at conditions like celiac disease and gluten allergies that make it indigestible.
Gluten and Celiac Disease
While some people decide to adopt a gluten-free diet because of mild intolerance or allergies, there are people whose digestive system can not tolerate gluten at all.
This is people diagnosed with celiac disease, for whom gluten in the smallest amounts produces an allergic response that inflames the intestines and bowels. With repeated exposure to gluten, the lining of such organs breaks down, causing all manner of serious and potentially life-threatening consequences.
Grains that Contain Gluten
For anyone following a gluten-free diet, these are the grains to avoid:
- wheat, including these products or varieties:
These commonly appear in breads, pastries, cereals, and pasta.
Barley is present in most beers, but because gluten-free diets have recently become so popular, you can now find gluten-free beer which is surprisingly not bad.
When it comes to oats, many celiacs can tolerate them because its a different variety. If you have celiac disease, we recommend you take a test to see if you are sensitive to oats.
These are the grains that celiacs can indulge in without worries:
- buckwheat groats
- oats (beware of gluten contamination)
- wild rice
Although this grains have no gluten in their composition, celiacs should make sure to avoid those made at facilities that store or process any gluten-containing grains.
How to know if you suffer from Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is widely under-diagnosed. Up to 90% of people who suffer from this condition don’t know they have it.
Sometime around 2010, gluten-free diets becam a fad and people became convinced that they were gluten-sensitive and simply stopped eating gluten-based foods.
The experiment led to a number of undiagnosed celiacs cutting gluten from their diets without ever getting tested.
Since only about one percent of people actually have celiac disease, the others who rest of people that cut out gluten from their diets and reported feeling better, probably had some digestive problem. Gluten can be hard to digest so it is logic they would got some relief from avoiding it.
The only and best way to know if you have celiac disease is to get a test and a real diagnosis so if you have any doubts it is better to check with your doctor.
Can you be a Gluten-Free Vegan?
If you are a vegan with celiac disease, adopting both diets is a no brainer. While it might seem a bit daunting, being a gluten-free vegan today is possible and will only continue to get easier.
Everything from fruits and veggies to beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and many cereals are naturally gluten-free. Not to mention they’re some of the most affordable foods on the planet.
You might have to spend some time checking the labels and finding some foods that are safe for you, but it is definitely not impossible to be both vegan and gluten-free. Check out the next section for some gluten-free vegan alternatives.
Gluten-Free Vegan foods
Luckily, there is an increasing number of gluten-free vegan food products you can find in grocery stores and specialty supermarkets.
Here are some ideas for you to start exploring:
Note: Please make sure to verify the ingredients and certifications when consuming a product. While we believe the foods on this list to be suitable for both vegan and gluten-free diets, you are ultimately responsible for your health and safety
Fruits and the frozen isle
Forget about labels (for a while), literally, everything you’ll find in the fruit section is both gluten-free and vegan.
Some exceptions might include refrigerated salad dressing (usually use milk and/or eggs) and the jars of fruit with syrup added (most of them are fine, but some may contain honey, which is non-vegan).
In this section, you may also find refrigerated meat substitutes. While obviously targeted at a vegan audience, many of these meat substitutes contain wheat-derived ingredients that aren’t safe on the gluten-free diet.
When it comes to frozen or canned fruits or vegetables, single-ingredient products almost certainly will be vegan. However, depending on how sensitive you are to trace gluten, you’ll need to read labels to look for warnings of cross-contamination.
Breads and Pasta
For gluten-free bread, you might want to consider Ener-G and Schar products—both brands include gluten-free, vegan options. You also can find gluten-free vegan bagels and English muffins from various gluten-free manufacturers.
Baking Mixes and Supplies
As a gluten-free vegetarian or vegan shopping for baking mixes, you’ll obviously be going after the “gluten-free”-marked products. The same way, you’ll also need to watch out for animal ingredients since many of the options available contain either milk or eggs.
Ketchup, salsa and mustard rarely contain any animal-derived ingredients (watch out for honey), so you’ll only need to watch out for their gluten-free status.
If you are craving some gluten-free mayonnaise, you can turn to Vegenaise, which consider itself to be gluten-free. Alternatively, you can try one of the gluten-free-labeled oil-and-vinegar-based dressings on the market.
As we have shown you, the answer to the question, “does gluten free mean vegan?” is a very certain, “no”! A vegan diet is significantly different from a gluten-free diet, and while there can be some overlap between the two, the two are not interchangeable with each other.
If you are a vegan with a gluten sensitivity, you should of course avoid any and all kinds of food containing gluten. However, if you do not have celiac disease (or another type of gluten intolerance), there is no benefit to avoiding gluten.
If you thought that most foods were off-limits, we have shown you there’s actually a lot you can eat. Just remember…always check the ingredients!
Are you a vegan and gluten-free? Do you know one? Let us know in the comment section below and share your best tips with us!