If you’re focusing on your diet and trying to improve your options, or you’re catering for friends, you might find yourself confused by the terms used sometimes. There are a lot of new dietary requirements and preferences these days, and it can be difficult to keep up. Today, we’re going to cover is vegan and gluten-free the same? The difference explained.
Vegan and gluten-free are not the same at all. Being a vegan means that you don’t consume or use animal products such as meat, dairy, honey, eggs, and non-edibles like leather and wool. Being gluten-free means that you do not consume gluten, which is found in some cereal products.
What Is A Vegan?
Being a vegan means that you do not eat animal products. Like a vegetarian, a vegan won’t consume meat or fish of any kind, but this goes further. Vegans do not eat things like dairy or honey, even if they are ethically produced.
Many vegans also take this approach with their clothing and the items they use in daily life. This means not using things like bone-handled knives, and not wearing silk, wool, or leather. Many vegans would reject self-care products that contain animal products, or that have been tested on animals.
The ethos behind veganism is often the protection of animals. Most vegans do not eat or use animal products because they believe that as a species, we have no right to do so. The products do not belong to us; they belong to the animals, and we should not be taking them.
There is a degree of flexibility in veganism, and you will find vegans of varying strictness levels, just as you will find vegetarians of varying strictness levels.
Often, a “strict vegetarian” means a vegan whose diet excludes animal products, but who will wear and use animal products. An “environmental vegan” would be one who avoids all animal products because commercial farming is unsustainable and damaging, and they do not wish to support it.
An “ethical vegan” opposes the use of all animal products, sustainable or not, because they do not believe that we should take animal products, as we have no right to claim these. Items such as feathers and wool, even if sustainably gathered with no harm done to the animal, are not acceptable in most cases.
What Do Vegans Need To Avoid Consuming/Using?
As well as the obvious abstention from meat, here are a few things that many (although not all) vegans will not use/consume:
- Shellac (often found in sweets)
- Gelatin (often found in sweets)
- Animal fat (may be used for frying or in things such as fabric softeners)
- Some shampoo/conditioners
- Glycerin (found in many toothpastes)
- Natural flavorings such as E120 and some of the other E numbers, which are based on animal products
- Parmesan, which must contain animal rennet to use that name
Some of these things, such as honey, have easy alternatives that you can use. Maple syrup, for example, is a simple swap, but you should always double-check products before consuming them.
What Does Being Gluten-Free Involve?
So, what about being gluten-free? A gluten-free diet can be followed for a number of reasons, and none are related to animal cruelty/exploitation. Gluten-free diets are often followed because people find that they feel better cutting out gluten, or because they have a health condition such as celiac disease.
Those with celiac disease cannot digest gluten; it creates an autoimmune response that can be very damaging to the body and prevents the gut from adequately absorbing nutrients. This can lead to all kinds of health complications such as osteoporosis and cancer, and is very unpleasant.
Not everyone who suffers from celiac disease gets noticeable symptoms; there are some “silent celiacs” who only know the problem exists because doctors have confirmed it.
Others may get extremely unpleasant symptoms from even a trace contamination. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, weakness, headaches, bloating, stomach cramps, etc. The contamination also has an effect on the person’s digestive system.
People who suffer from celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet to reduce the symptoms and ensure that they can get the nutrients they need.
However, some people choose to follow a gluten-free diet because they feel better when they do. We are very dependent on gluten-based products in today’s world, and even without a medical condition, many people feel healthier when they do not eat products containing gluten.
It isn’t exactly clear why this is, although it is important to note that wheat (a major source of gluten) may be sprayed with glyphosate prior to harvesting. Some believe there is a connection between this chemical and celiac disease/discomfort from eating wheat.
What Do People Who Are Gluten-Free Need To Avoid Eating?
The gluten-free diet often presents some confusion, but wheat, barley, and rye are the foods that people who are gluten-free cannot consume. That might sound like a short list, but if you look at it more closely, you’ll realize that means they cannot eat graham flour, semolina, durum wheat, or spelt.
People who are gluten-free cannot consume regular beer or ale because these contain barley. Many chips also contain wheat in their coating, and most traditional sauces are thickened using wheat flour.
People following a gluten-free diet need to check everything that they consume because almost anything can contain wheat, barley, or rye, even if it normally wouldn’t. Wheat is frequently used as a cheap way to bulk out foods, and even things like tomato sauce may have wheat added.
Cross-contamination is also important to consider, especially for people with celiac disease. Many products that contain gluten (such as bread) will create a lot of contamination through microscopic crumbs, and these alone are enough to cause a reaction in those who suffer from the disease.
People who are gluten-free need to avoid:
- Sauces containing wheat
- Bread, including rye and spelt
- Most cereals, unless specifically gluten-free
- Oats unless certified as gluten-free (these are often processed with wheat-containing foods)
- Beer and ale
- Soy sauce
- Food with breadcrumbs
- Bulgur wheat
- Egg noodles
- Naans, pitas, tortillas, and other flatbreads
- Syrups that contain barley
- Mixed meats, e.g. sausages that may contain gluten
- Soups with flour thickeners
- Malt vinegar (and dressings made with it)
- Stocks, which often contain wheat
When eating out, people who are gluten-free also need to remember that fried foods are frequently fried in one fryer, so if the restaurant serves any battered food, you need to check about cross-contamination.
What Are The Major Differences Between The Two Diets?
These two diets don’t really have any crossover. Both may be followed for health reasons or for other preferences, and both can be quite restrictive in terms of what they allow you to eat, but otherwise, they do not really overlap in many ways.
The gluten-free diet is naturally focused upon cereals that are often used in our foods, while a vegan diet is usually more focused upon animal welfare, although it can also relate to health. Both diets have gained popularity in recent years, due to growing awareness about animal welfare and an increase in celiac disease diagnosis.
Can You Be A Vegan And Gluten-Free?
It is perfectly possible to follow both a vegan diet and a gluten-free diet at the same time, but it is not easy.
Both diets are surprisingly restrictive and both require you to have a good understanding of food and check the ingredients (particularly veganism, because animal products can be given all sorts of different names), and this can be a challenge.
Many things that are gluten-free contain egg as a substitute for the binding properties that wheat has. This means that if you pick up the vegan alternative, you may find that it has flour in it. This is not the case for all products, but do look out for it if you wish to follow both diets.
There are plenty of foods that are both gluten-free and vegan, however. Many of the specifically gluten-free foods will also be vegan, and if you base most of your diet on fresh fruits and vegetables, you shouldn’t have too much problem.
However, it is always important to check the label before you purchase foods, particularly if you have a medical condition. Companies do alter their recipes and you may be surprised by the foods that animal products and gluten products can creep into.
As long as you read the packaging carefully and do a bit of research into the terms used for animal products, you should be able to follow a vegan, gluten-free diet, although you may find certain foods become totally off-limits, or that you have to get creative in the kitchen to keep enjoying your favorite meals.
Veganism and following a gluten-free diet are not the same thing at all, and hopefully now you understand the differences between the two. Veganism is a plant-based diet, while gluten-free is about avoiding certain plants, but the two can be followed at the same time if you wish to.