“Paleo” and “Gluten-Free” are often tied together, and some people mistakenly assume that these two dietary lifestyles are synonymous. But, just because you are following a gluten free diet, doesn’t necessarily mean that your diet is Paleo. It is important that you understand the differences between them, and you will see that there are several things that make the Paleo lifestyle a little different than a basic gluten-free diet.
Why Gluten-Free Isn’t Enough
One of the most common dietary changes that people make when they are trying to improve their health is to cut gluten from their diet. There are compelling reasons (1) why a gluten-free lifestyle is beneficial, and you will likely notice a big difference in your overall health and energy levels when you cut the gluten.
In fact, it is estimated that as many as 18 million people in the United States have a sensitivity to gluten (2), yet gluten remains a staple in the Standard American Diet. Within the past decade, information is coming to light that has helped doctors understand more about how gluten causes inflammation in the body, which has started a trend of gluten-free dieting.
Now, it is possible for find a number of gluten free products in the grocery store: chips, cakes, cookies, waffles, donuts, pancakes, brownies, and more! Just because you are avoiding gluten, doesn’t mean that these highly processed foods are good for your health. Many of these foods contain tons of sugar, chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and more. Gluten free products now make up a billion-dollar industry, but people are causing other health problems by indulging in these deceiving products.
Improving Your Health with Paleo Principles
If you want to take your health to the next level, then you need to stick with the gluten free restrictions and start incorporating Paleo principles as well. Even though a product is marketed as gluten free, it doesn’t mean that it is free of all of the other garbage that is often added into processed foods.
So, make an effort to avoid gluten AND to stay away from highly processed foods at the same time. When you incorporate these changes into your regular diet, there are a number of health benefits that can be enjoyed:
- Lower rates of diabetes
- Balanced blood sugar levels
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Lower cancer rates
- Clear skin
- Higher energy levels
- Improved digestion
- Healthy hair
- Reduced chronic inflammation
The Paleo diet focuses on non-inflammatory foods, which provides a foundation for better health. Many of the common, chronic health conditions that people are dealing with are directly related to chronic inflammation. When you can reduce the inflammation, then these chronic health problems often go away.
What is Gluten… and Why is it so Bad?
The Paleo diet doesn’t recommend the consumption of any types of grains, which means that you will naturally be following a gluten-free diet when you incorporate Paleo principles into your life. Gluten is the protein within wheat, and it provides the nourishment to the plant during germination. Wheat isn’t the only type of grain with gluten, because it can also be found in various grains such as barley, rye, and other crossbreeds. When the wheat grain is ground and used for baking, the gluten affects the texture of the baked goods, which is why wheat and similar grains are preferred for baked goods.
Some people are gluten intolerant, which means that they experience an abnormal immune response when they consume gluten. In some situations, a person might experience an immediate and noticeable response after they eat gluten, which shows the gluten intolerance. In other situations, the immediate effects might not be as noticeable, and someone might be able to eat gluten on an ongoing basis without realizing the negative health effects that are occurring.
A large percentage of people with gluten sensitivity are eating gluten regularly, and they are experiencing the long-term health problems of chronic inflammation. Even though you might not attribute gluten consumption to chronic health problems, it is common to experience a decrease in symptoms when the gluten is eliminated from the diet.
One of the reasons that gluten sensitivity is becoming more common is because the wheat that is eaten today is drastically different from the original grains that were used many years ago. Modern technology has allowed scientists to change the wheat, and as a result today’s wheat contains about 80% gluten (3).
Paleo Helps You Avoid Other Harmful Compounds
In addition to eliminating gluten, the Paleo diet also encourages you to avoid grains all together… even if the grains don’t have gluten. There are other ingredients that also need to be avoided, in order to optimize digestion and reduce chronic inflammation:
- Gluten: As discussed above, which is a protein within the grain that causes digestive irritation and chronic inflammation.
- Phytates: These compounds bind with dietary minerals to prevent the absorption of the nutrients within your body. They aren’t quite as harmful as gluten, but you should be proactive to avoid them.
- Lectins: These small compounds can begin to bio-accumulate in the body when they are consumed, and they cause damage to the lining of the gut. Additionally, lectins can negatively impact hunger signals within your body, which means that you might feel hungry even after eating sufficient calories.
When you are following a Paleo lifestyle, you will be avoiding all of these compounds. But, you are likely still consuming phytates and lectins if you are only gluten-free.
Delicious Gluten-Free, Paleo Recipes
Just because you are gluten-free and Paleo, doesn’t mean that you need to give up some of your favorite treats. In fact, there are many delicious recipes that mimic some popular foods, using healthier ingredients instead. Our goal is to provide you with simple and tasty recipes that your whole family can enjoy.
Here are some of the popular gluten-free, Paleo recipes that you might like: