I’ve often gotten asked what the difference between a Paleo and Gluten-Free diet is, and so in this post, I hope to get across to you the main differences as well as why I think Paleo is generally better than GF despite some similarities.
There’s also an infographic down below – please feel free to pin or embed it on your own website.
I’ll start by quickly defining each diet, and then the section after that will list the main differences between Paleo and Gluten-Free.
Generally, most people who are on a gluten-free diet just avoid gluten. So you’ve probably seen in health food markets or even in your local supermarket tons of packaged foods labeled gluten-free (or GF). What that means is that they don’t contain the protein called gluten, which is found in grains like wheat, barley, rye.
Often, instead of wheat, these gluten-free products contain other grains. So, gluten-free bread may be made from rice flour instead, and to make up for the taste difference, gluten-free packaged goods often contain additional sugar, preservatives, coloring, seed oils, etc.
I know this is a generalization since many diets, including Paleo, Primal, and most versions of low carb or keto are also gluten-free diets. And healthy kale chips can labeled gluten-free too.
But, gluten-free just means no-gluten. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything else. And while gluten is probably problematic regardless of whether you’re celiac or not, it’s not the only food that could be problematic to your health and weight.
The Paleo diet started off as a diet based off what humans ate in prehistoric times – the premise was that if humans have been thriving on those foods for so many millennia, then we must be adapted to eat it. And foods like wheat have entered our food systems very recently when you compare it to how long humans have been in existence.
Often, the Paleo diet is compared to that of more recent hunter-gatherer tribes, who ate grain-free diets.
In the strictest form, a Paleo diet eliminates all grains (not just the gluten-containing grains), all legumes (including soy and peanuts), all processed sugars, all seed and vegetable oils, and all dairy.
In more practical forms, Paleo eaters use what our ancestors ate as an initial model and then also look at the modern science behind a food to evaluate whether its health benefits and practical concerns outweigh its health downsides. That’s why foods like white rice, potatoes, and foods like ghee, raw milk, and gluten-free tamari soy sauce are considered OK by most Paleo eaters.
Lastly, while Paleo is considered a diet by many, it does also have a lot to say about the importance of sleep, de-stressing, and exercise.
Here’s an infographic to illustrate the difference between a Paleo and Gluten-Free diet – feel free to pin this and share it. If you’d like to embed this infographic on your website, please use the embed code below in order to credit us for our work.
Just a quick note – I know there are many different versions of a Paleo or a Gluten-Free diet, so the differences listed below are generalizations.
1. Gluten-Free focuses on whether a food contains gluten, where Paleo focuses on whether a food has been eaten by our ancestors for a long time.
Paleo advocates for the elimination of grains, legumes, dairy, processed sugar, and seed oils. For a more detailed list, you can download our Paleo diet food list here.
2. Paleo focuses on more than just food, but also aspects like sleep, de-stressing, and exercise.
It’s generally described that people in the very distant past slept more (during hours when there’s no sunlight and no electricity), weren’t as stressed (because there weren't so many modern day stressors like mobile phones, social media), and people walked and lifted heavy stuff a lot. Because Paleo incorporates these concepts, Paleo is often described as a lifestyle rather than a diet.
3. In general, Paleo is more geared toward weight-loss and healing a variety of health issues, whereas Gluten-Free is focused on helping those with celiac disease.
While many people also go on a gluten-free diet for weight-loss, in general, Paleo is more known for being a weight-loss and anti-inflammatory diet.
4. In general, a Paleo diet contains fewer carbohydrates than a general Gluten-Free diet.
This is because Paleo cuts out most foods that are naturally high in carbs, e.g., grains and legumes. However, as Chris Kresser points out, “Paleo does not equal low carb."
While a GF diet often helps those with celiac disease, some find that it’s difficult to heal their gut when they’re also introducing other foods that could be causing damage to their gut.
And often Paleo also helps people who aren’t diagnosed as celiac with a variety of symptoms.
An important note to celiacs: While Paleo eaters stay gluten-free most of the time, many of them don’t have huge incentive to avoid small amounts of gluten in foods like a sauce accompanying a dish at a restaurant or a stir-fry dish that uses regular soy sauce instead of gluten-free tamari sauce.
For example, I really enjoyed eating at Mums, a restaurant in Edinburgh that serves gluten-free sausages. However, when I recommended it to a gluten-free friend, I realized that I had no way of guaranteeing that the food there wouldn’t be contaminated with gluten since I don’t feel any symptoms from small amounts of gluten. Luckily, he was pretty knowledgeable and tested it out himself and found that he also didn’t suffer any symptoms. So, while Paleo is gluten-free, it might not be as gluten-free as you might need it to be.
In the end, you can make every diet healthy or unhealthy. You can eat Paleo brownies laden with almond flour and honey daily or you can eat GF bread made with rice flour, and both would not be great for your health or weight. Or you can eat a gluten-free diet filled with fresh vegetables and grass-fed beef and be healthier than most Paleo folks.
What I’m getting at is that whether you label your diet and lifestyle as Gluten-Free or Paleo doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you actually put into your body.
Whether you label your diet and lifestyle as Gluten-Free or Paleo doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you actually put into your body!
Personally, I find sticking to a Paleo lifestyle helps me eat healthier as it means I can automatically say NO to pretty much all prepackaged food. This just decreases my likelihood of eating junk. And if I do want something sweet like a muffin, I have to take the time and effort to make it myself.
Images: Copyright (c) expressiovisual, minoandriani from Fotolia
One of the questions I frequently get asked from people just starting a Paleo diet is “why do I feel so weak when I start Paleo?”
This is a guest post by Melissa Gavencak.
In my household, I’m Paleo, the dog is Paleo, and my husband isn’t.
Whatever baby Genevieve chooses to be we’ll support, as long as she understands our house philosophy regarding food. The majority of what we eat is grown, gathered, hunted, or caught by us or someone we know.
Every year we try to get that majority closer to 100%, but it takes time, money, some readjusting and patience. My husband spends 16-18 hours at a time offshore fishing for our food. Does he love it? Is he putting food on our table? Does he have control over our food from the time it is caught until it enters our mouths? Yes to all those questions. But, he also misses us. It takes away from family time. It is costly. And, sometimes a fisherman does come home with an empty boat. There are years when we have success with our garden, and years when 15 tomato plants (yes, I know, nightshade family) yield two eight ounce mason jars of sauce, but we get by. Around mid-winter I get sick of venison, but it works out to $2 per pound after processing, and we know where it has been from the point of being killed to warming in our crockpot.
Knowing what it took to get our food on the table is of major importance to our family. We want to know how the animal lived and died to feed us, and how our veggies, fruits and even herbs were grown. If nothing else, I hope my daughter learns this from us. Respect of food, all food, and how it got to the plate.
It’s not easy to start the AIP (autoimmune paleo) protocol. Various foods like bread, cereal, nuts, seeds, tomatoes, eggs are all of a sudden off the list of foods you can eat, and you’re left wondering what on earth you can still eat!
So, we’ve created this handy guide to help you navigate the AIP diet and heal your body as quickly as possible.
You can also download this list as a printable PDF to stick on your fridge or to take with you when you go shopping.
Items in parentheticals are typically harder to find and not often used in most recipes. If you live somewhere where those items are easier to find and you want to give them a try, then by all means purchase them. Where applicable, items are linked so that you can purchase them on Amazon.com or elsewhere online.
Sea salt + flavored salt (e.g., garlic salt, lemon salt)
If you’re looking for the AIP Food List, then click the button below to download it:
Canned fish and seafood (packed in brine or olive oil)
Herbal tea (rooibos, mint, honeybush, chamomile)
Other teas (black, white, green)
(Sweet potato puree)
(Chicory root “coffee”)
Images: Copyright (c) laurha, millefloreimages, norikko, Luis Santos, Leonid Nyshko, s4sanchita, dusk, giulianax, spafra, Picture Partners, Angel Simon, Viktor, David Pimborough, Ilya Zaytsev, akulamatiau, Jiri Hera, Dionisvera, Mara Zemgaliete, hanabiyori, Marek, picsfive, viperagp, Paulista, gcpics, Gudellaphoto, toomler from Fotolia
This guest post is by Will from California Tea House. If you’re looking for some new teas to try, then why not give his favorites a try – the Fruity Dream is a blend of hibiscus blossoms, rose hip peels, apple preserves, kiwi bits, strawberry slices, elderberries, citrus peels, strawberries, marigold and cornflower blooms and apricots, and the Pomegranate Peony is a one of a kind blend of pomegranate preserves, rose-hips and stevia blended with the finest grade of white peony tea.
If you’re interested in buying some tea from California Tea House, then use this coupon code, PALEO10, to get 10% off plus free shipping.
Do you ever feel like you’ve gotten a little bit dumber as you aged?
I often do. I look back at some of the things I wrote or did 15 years ago, and I’m actually impressed. They were really smart.
And then I look at what I’ve done recently, and I don’t quite feel the same way…
It’s not an inevitable fact of aging, however. Most modern research points to the fact that we can not only retain our full mental faculties as we age, but we can actually improve them.
Here’s a new study on one way to do that:
If you’re new to essential oils, then you’re in for a treat. These oils have been used for thousands of years for health, relaxation, as well as ceremonies.
It’s no wonder that essential oils are more popular than they’ve ever been.
In this beginner guide to essential oils, I’ll show you the scientific reason why essential oils could be beneficial to your health – as well as 19 easy ways to use essential oils in your daily life.
Plus! If you click the button below, you can grab an awesome essential oil starter set for a big discount…
Here are a few basic facts about essential oils to help you get started.
The fountain of youth has been written about and sought out for over 2,500 years. It’s unlikely that we’re going to stumble upon the mythological fountain any day soon now.
However, modern technology is rapidly approaching the ability to slow down or even reverse aging. And until we get there, modern science is already pretty clear on exactly what causes aging and what we can do immediately to slow it down.
For instance, here’s a recent study (conducted on blackbirds) that deals directly with this question and comes to the same answer that pretty much all other studies are getting:
I recently got the following question from a reader…
A couple months ago my husband & I decided to join the Paleo lifestyle, and my body loved it! We both felt better, healthier, etc. But all of a sudden my husband started not feeling so well – every evening his stomach would hurt him, the bottoms of his feet also were hurting very bad & he was exhausted.
Every day, he was eating one non-Paleo meal, except for those 3 days when he started feeling bad. Some people told me that Paleo may not be right for him. He works in a physically demanding job. I got some dairy just for him & some gluten that is readily available when he needs. Why do you think his body is not taking well to Paleo?
In the US, saunas really aren’t all that popular. During the early part of the 20th century, there was an increase in popularity, but recently, interest has waned.
On the other hand, saunas have been a mainstay among those living in Scandinavia for thousands of years, and they’re particularly common and popular in Finland.
So it’s no surprise that a group of Finnish researchers conducted the following (very interesting and telling) study:
I’ve always been a night owl. I don’t think it’s inevitable for me, by any means, but I always tend to stay up later and later.
Lately, however, I’ve really begun to realize just how much I love waking up with the sunrise and going to bed on time. I feel better all day, and most importantly for me, I have a better attitude and perspective during the day.
Plus, there’s new evidence that it’s not just about how much we sleep but about maintaining a consistent sleep cycle.
We don’t really need many reasons to live a purposeful life. After all, living with purpose makes life more enjoyable and meaningful.
But there is another good reason…
There have been a lot of studies analyzing the effect purpose has on health and mortality. This study attempted to account for a lot more variables.
I recently got asked this question by a reader:
Do Reishi Mushrooms (also known as Ling Zhi Mushrooms) have Medicinal Benefits?
Chinese practitioners have used these mushrooms for centuries (at least), and the supposed health benefits include treating prostrate cancer, boosting the immune system, and treating insomnia.
I don’t like using studies or research to scare anyone into doing anything, although the study below should probably worry you just a little bit.
I’m already of the opinion that we should get as many of our nutrients (vitamins and minerals) from our foods as possible. However, I’m not opposed to supplementing where necessary or beneficial.