Are you afraid that if you become vegan then you will also have to be gluten-free? In order words, “does vegan mean gluten-free?”.
There is a lot of confusion out there regarding what it means to be vegan, as well as what it means to be gluten-free. As a matter of fact, because there is so much conflicting information out there, many people equate the two lifestyles and assume that vegan foods are automatically gluten-free and vice-versa.
So no, vegan DOES NOT mean gluten-free!
We will go over the differences between being gluten-free and being vegan, and also discuss some related topics (such as people who need to lead gluten-free lifestyles for medical reasons, whether it is viable to be both vegan and gluten-free, and more).
Vegan Diet vs.Gluten-Free Diet
The most important part to understanding why vegan and gluten-free are not the same is understanding what being vegan and being gluten-free means.
With that in mind, I am going to explain these differences in the following section of this article and also go over some more specific dietary differences.
1. What does it mean to be vegan?
According to the Vegan Society, veganism is “a way of living which seeks to exclude (as far as is possible and practicable) all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
Essentially, it is a lifestyle that involves not consuming any foods containing animal products (and also not utilizing other products that come from animal-related sources as well).
2. What does it mean to be gluten-free?
Being gluten-free, means to follow a diet that does not contain gluten. According to Medical News Today, gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt, and barley.
The two main gluten proteins are gliadin and glutenin, and it is gliadin that is responsible for most of the negative health effects associated with the consumption of gluten.
Essentially, a gluten-free lifestyle involves following a diet that excludes any products containing gluten, such as breads, cereals, baked goods, and generally just anything containing those potentially harmful gluten proteins.
What food do vegans eat? What are some vegan products?
Thankfully, while being vegan means that you cannot consume any animal products, you are not doomed to a bland and boring diet; there are still plenty of delicious and healthy foods that you can consume as a vegan.
Fruit and vegetables are vegan by default of course, and according to Healthline many vegan dishes feature beans, lentils, tofu, seitan, tempeh, nuts, and seeds as substitutions for meat products.
There are also a host of ready-to-eat vegan meal products available as well should you wish to purchase them. With veganism on the rise, more and more grocery stores (particularly high-end and specialty stores) carry vegan-friendly food products.
This article from PETA, for example, offers a list of delicious vegan-friendly snack foods (including different kinds of chips and even a vegan-friendly jerky that is soy-based with special seasonings designed to replicate the taste of traditional jerky).
There are also many resources when it comes to cooking your own vegan-friendly meals at home. Not only are there numerous cookbooks geared towards the vegan lifestyle, there are many online resources as well (such as this Reader’s Digest webpage, which offers twelve recipes for various delicious vegan dishes, including a breakfast scramble with tofu and chickpea coconut curry that would make a delicious dinner).
What foods do gluten-free people eat? What are some gluten-free products?
Since the primary goal of a gluten-free diet is to avoid any and all products that contain gluten. This means that most traditional breads, baked goods, cereals, pastas, and other wheat products are out of the question when it comes to mealtime.
Luckily, there are still plenty of good things to eat even if foods containing gluten are off the menu. According to this article from Coeliac UK, a gluten-free diet can still contain meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, brown rice, potatoes, and lentils, as well any processed foods that are gluten-free; you simply must avoid gluten.
Additionally, most milk and dairy products are perfectly safe to consume as well (since they should be gluten-free by default), but as with all foods be sure to double-check before consuming it.
Also, because gluten-free products have been more highly in demand in recent years, there are many ready-to-eat gluten-free products available for purchase in supermarkets and grocery stores all around the world.
This article from Real Simple lists some of the most popular gluten-free foods that can be found at most supermarkets; some of these items include gluten-free pasta, gluten-free pizza, gluten-free brownie mix, gluten-free breads, gluten-free beer, and more.
There are also many gluten-free recipes that you can make yourself if you do not want to rely entirely on store-bought products for your sustenance.
This section the Food Network website is a particularly good resource, as it contains a comprehensive selection of recipes you can try (including gluten-free fried chicken, gluten-free mac and cheese, gluten-free cookies, and more) as well as general tips for cooking and baking gluten-free products at home.
Who Should Be Gluten-Free?
While many people choose to be gluten-free in the hopes of leading a healthier lifestyle, there are also many people who cannot consume gluten because of a medical condition.
This condition is known as celiac disease. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, this disease is an autoimmune disorder that leads to damage in the small intestine when the person in question ingests gluten.
Estimated to affect one in a hundred people all around the world, celiac disease can be quite serious since it can cause serious damage to a person’s small intestine, which in turn can negatively impact their ability to absorb key nutrients from the foods they eat.
As a result, anyone with celiac disease should NOT consume any food products containing gluten. Unlike other people who simply choose not to consume gluten for non-medical reasons (and therefore can eat gluten-containing foods without experiencing any harmful effects), it is important for anyone with celiac disease to eat only gluten-free products (since they could seriously compromise their health and well-being otherwise).
Are Vegans Gluten-Free? Can You Eat Gluten If You Are Vegan?
While some vegans choose to also be gluten-free, a vegan diet is not at all the same as a gluten-free diet.
As a largely planted-based diet, it does not make much sense for a vegan diet to exclude gluten-containing products such as traditional pastas, cereals, breads, and so on. After all, by being both gluten-free and vegan a person would be cutting themselves off to twice as many potential sources of nutrient and further limiting their dietary choices.
Are All Vegan Foods Gluten-Free?
While there are foods that are both gluten-free and vegan (such as quinoa, brown rice, fruits, vegetables, baked goods that substitute almond flour for traditional flour, and so on) not all vegan-friendly foods are automatically gluten-free.
This means that if you are someone with celiac disease (or if you have another sort of gluten intolerance) you will still need to read the labels on your food carefully even if you are already vegan, because many vegan-friendly food items do still contain gluten.
Is A Gluten-Free Diet Vegan-Friendly?
As mentioned above, a gluten-free diet is not the same as a vegan diet.
While people who are gluten-free must not eat products containing gluten, they typically have no problems with consuming animals products (such as meat, seafood, dairy items, and so on).
This consumption of animal products makes it quite clear that a gluten-free diet is quite dissimilar to a vegan diet.
That being said, as I mentioned a moment ago there are plenty of foods that are both gluten-free and vegan-friendly, which can be both helpful (by allowing people who follow both diets to have more options) and detrimental (since it can promote the misunderstanding that these two diets are equivalent to one another).
And since many store-bought products are now marketed as both, the confusion that some consumers experience regarding the two different diets is understandable. Ultimately, while there can be some cross-over between a gluten-free diet and a vegan diet, a gluten-free diet is not automatically vegan-friendly.
Can You Be Vegan And Gluten-Free?
It is definitely not impossible to be both vegan and gluten-free. It may be slightly more difficult to find viable food items to consume, but there are good options out there if you know how and where to look for them.
What foods are gluten-free and vegan?
A food that is both gluten-free and vegan must: 1) contain no animal products whatsoever and 2) contain no gluten whatsoever. While this does limit your options, there are still plenty of delicious foods that you can eat even if you are vegan and gluten-free.
All fruits and vegetables are, by default, both gluten-free (they contain no wheat, barley, rye, spelt, et cetera) and vegan (they contain no animal products). Seeds and nuts are also both gluten-free and vegan-friendly.
Quinoa and brown rice, which I mentioned earlier, are also both vegan and gluten-friendly, since they are natural grain products that do not contain any potentially harmful gluten proteins.
There are also an increasing number of gluten-free vegan food products available in grocery stores and specialty supermarkets.
This article from Very Well Fit can be a very helpful resource when it comes to finding some excellent food items that are both vegan and gluten-free (including pizza, baking mixes, microwave dinners, and more).
Why Should Vegans (without celiac disease) Eat Food Containing Gluten?
If you are someone leading a vegan lifestyle who also has celiac disease, you should of course avoid any and all kinds of food containing gluten (or at least significant amounts of gluten).
However, if you do not have celiac disease (or another type of gluten intolerance that causes the consumption of gluten to cause you actual physical harm and illness) you should carefully consider whether or not going gluten-free (in addition to being vegan) is really in your best interest.
This is because while wheat products containing gluten are harmful to those that are allergic to them, they are actually beneficial to those who do not have an adverse reaction to them.
In fact, according to Nutrition Facts, some scientific studies have linked the consumption of whole grains to a reduced risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other serious health conditions.
Furthermore, while avoiding gluten-containing food is a must for anyone with celiac disease, there is no scientific proof at all that going gluten-free is in any way beneficial to the rest of the population.
In fact, some studies have shown that cutting gluten out of our diets when we do not have to for medical reasons might actually be causing us harm; it could potentially impact our immune system, specifically the helpful bacteria in our intestines.
Therefore, while the decision to go gluten-free or not is ultimately up to you, it is extremely important to consider all the potential benefits and risks associated with such a significant dietary change.
Bonus: Do you want to know how to prepare easy vegan meal recipes that are both healthy and gluten free? Watch the video below to find out how.
As you can see, the answer to the question, “does vegan mean gluten-free?” is indisputably, “no”! A vegan diet is significantly different from a gluten-free diet, and while there can be some overlap between the two dietary lifestyles, the two are not interchangeable with one another.
I am personally not gluten-free, as I know that to lead a healthy lifestyle, being gluten-free is not a requirement. On the contrary, being gluten-free can have negative effects on my health. I love eating bread and pasta too much!
Are you a vegan and gluten-free? Do you know anybody with Celiac Disease who needs to eat gluten-free? Let me know in the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform!