Many vegan products often have a gluten-free sticker on them and may keep you wondering if vegan and gluten-free are the same thing.
Is Vegan Gluten-Free?
Stick around to understand what it means to be vegan and gluten-free and how the two may or may not relate.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is an insoluble protein found in certain grains, particularly wheat, rye, and barley, and can be found in food products such as bread, pasta, soy sauce, cookies, beer, salad dressing, etc.
Gluten is responsible for the elastic consistency of the dough and the chewiness of foods made from wheat flour like bread and pasta.
Is Gluten Bad For You?
For some people, food containing gluten causes problems such as wheat allergy, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Wheat allergy is a non-common condition that occurs when a person’s immune system mounts an allergic response to wheat protein leading to mild problems, and in rare cases, a potentially dangerous reaction called anaphylaxis.
Celiac disease is an inherited disease in which eating gluten-containing foods lead to inflammation and damage of the lining in the small intestine.
This impairs intestinal functions, leading to stomachache, bloating, gas, diarrhea, weight loss, skin rash, bone problems like osteoporosis, iron deficiency, infertility, fatigue, and depression.
Untreated celiac disease increases the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Celiac disease is present in one out of every 100 – 200 persons in the US.
When blood tests suggest the possibility of celiac, the diagnosis is confirmed with a biopsy.
The most effective treatment is a gluten-free diet, which helps heal intestinal damage and improve symptoms.
Some people don’t have celiac disease or allergies but still, experience symptoms when they eat gluten.
These people have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. They experience painful gut symptoms and often suffer from fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, or skin rash.
A gluten-free diet specifically helps with these symptoms.
What Is A Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet is a diet that completely omits the consumption of animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, and honey, or animal byproducts, or anything that has been tried or tested on animals.
In other words, a vegan diet is purely built on plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds.
What Is The Difference Between A Vegan And A Gluten-Free Diet?
Veganism is the abstinence from all forms of animal cruelty and exploitation either for food, clothing, or products such as makeup and cleaning products.
On the other hand, gluten-free is the avoidance of gluten-containing foods for purely health concerns, especially in those allergic to gluten or are gluten intolerant.
Veganism is more of an ethical concern, and vegans are highly driven by their love for animals, the environment, and health. Gluten-free on the other hand is purely for health reasons.
Also check out the Difference Between Vegan and Plant-Based.
Can You Be Gluten-Free And Vegan?
While a vegan diet involves all and any plant-based food, a gluten-free diet focuses on avoiding plant foods containing gluten.
This means all vegan diets are plant-based, but not all plant-based foods are gluten-free. So a vegan can either eat everything plant-based or choose to exclude gluten-containing foods.
What Are The Benefits Of Gluten-Free Diets?
1. Lowers inflammation
Inflammation is the immune response to irritation, and gluten is a common irritant.
Inflammation is also the beginning of most diseases, whether you are allergic/ sensitive to gluten or not. Read More.
2. Increases energy levels
Individuals with gluten sensitivity often have reduced energy levels. This is because, as an irritant, gluten damages the intestinal walls impairing the absorption of vitamins and minerals, including iron. With low iron levels, the body experiences fatigue and the inability to fight exhaustion.
Going gluten-free will allow healing and restore good nutrient absorption. Read More.
3. Promotes weight loss
By avoiding gluten you are generally getting rid of most unhealthy carbohydrates such as wheat products, which in return prevents unhealthy gain.
4. Eliminates bloating
The inflammatory effects of gluten are often manifested through gut symptoms such as bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort, which can all be controlled by going gluten-free. See More.
5. Improves skin health
The damaged gut from eating gluten often hinders the absorption of essential nutrients that promote skin health, such as vitamin A, C, and E, selenium, and zinc.
By avoiding gluten you are allowing healing and restoration of normal functions.
6. Improves immunity
About 70% of your immune system is located in the gut. By avoiding gluten you’re preventing unnecessary inflammation and gut damage. This will help keep your immune system at the peak of its function.
7. Promotes bone health
Usually, your intestines are lined with microvilli, which are designed to absorb calcium, magnesium, fats, and proteins.
Since gluten is irritating and damaging to your gut, it breaks down the microvilli each time you eat gluten-containing food.
This impairs calcium absorption among other nutrients, leading to poor bone health.
By eliminating gluten, you’re allowing your microvilli to heal and restore their function, thus improving bone health.
8. Reduces joint pain
Gluten sensitivity is often associated with joint pain. This is because the inflammation that occurs from consuming gluten can make its way to the joints causing arthritis-like pain. This pain is often misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis. Read More.
9. Promotes general health and well being
Most gluten-containing food products such as cakes and cookies are highly processed with high levels of sugars in the form of carbohydrates.
When broken down, these carbohydrates are converted to sugars which the body uses for different body functions.
However, the body only needs 4 grams of sugar circulating in the blood at any given point and time. So anything extra is converted and stored as fat in the midsection and around your internal organs.
This leads to excessive weight gain predisposing you to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and related heart conditions.
What Are The Best Gluten-Free Flours For Vegans?
- Quinoa flour
- Brown rice flour
- Almond flour
- Buckwheat flour
- Oat flour
- Arrowroot starch
- Sorghum flour
- Chickpea flour
- Teff flour
- Amaranth flour
- Millet flour
- Corn flour
In conclusion, gluten is a protein in specific grains and has no connection with veganism apart from the fact that a vegan might choose to consume gluten or go gluten-free to improve their health.
This is especially if they have gluten sensitivity or allergy or generally a preference to lead a healthy lifestyle.
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