A gluten free diet and a ketogenic diet are different in what they are trying to accomplish and what is allowed. There are many crossovers, and it can be not very clear if you are not familiar with their differences.
Gluten free and keto are not interchangeable. A gluten free diet is one free from wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives. A ketogenic diet, on the other hand, focuses on the macronutrients in the food. A keto diet is deficient in carbohydrates. Because gluten is found in some high carbohydrate foods, many keto products are gluten free.
The differences between these can be confusing, and we are nitpicking at times. I chatted with Karen Kennedy of Real Food Matters about the differences. As a trained Functional Nutritionist, she had some great insights into the similarities and differences.
Gluten Free Vs. Keto – What’s The Difference?
A gluten free diet is usually done to alleviate medical symptoms. A doctor may prescribe a gluten free diet, or a patient may choose to see if this will help undiagnosed symptoms.
A ketogenic diet is primarily used as a weight-loss tool.
A gluten free diet eliminates gluten from the diet. This excludes wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and any other forms of gluten-containing grains.
A ketogenic diet eliminates almost all carbohydrates from the diet.
The main difference between a gluten free diet and a keto diet is that they target different things within the diet. Not only are they targeting different specifics, but the purpose of the diets is dramatically different.
Karen Kennedy Of Real Food Matters
To prepare this article, I asked some questions of Karen Kennedy at Real Food Matters. To learn more about her and her business, as well as get some great tips, consider joining her community on Facebook.
She has an MS in Nutrition from Bastyr University and is currently studying at the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy. She has taught cooking classes since 2001.
She has some experience of her own going gluten free over the years. Although she doesn’t need to be gluten free, she has followed a gluten free diet at various points. She says doing so has helped her understand the needs of her gluten free clients and help them in a more meaningful way.
She also has some experience as a mother to a child who has benefited from a gluten free diet for various health concerns.
I love that she has personal experience with gluten free, even if it doesn’t benefit her own health. I’m always so happy to work with people who have taken that extra step to understand what it is like to eat gluten free and the challenges that come with it.
What Is Gluten Free?
A gluten free diet is one free of gluten. Or at least as free of gluten as is possible to get. The recommendations and certifications are typically less than 10 or 20 parts per million. Under 20ppm is considered acceptable to be certified as gluten free.
Some certifications indicate less than 10 ppm, and some that indicate less than 20 ppm. These will depend on the certification body and country.
A gluten free diet is most notably prescribed as the only treatment for Celiac Disease. This disease attacks the villi in the intestines and reduces the individual’s ability to absorb vitamins and other nutrients. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition with no cure. The only known treatment is a rigorous gluten free diet.
Other conditions are positively impacted by eating a gluten free diet. Many doctors will prescribe a gluten free diet for any autoimmune disease such as Hashimotos, Lupus, etc. Other people have tried a gluten free diet to alleviate bothersome symptoms and have found that it works. Known as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. NCGS is starting to be recognized more and more.
What Is Keto?
Keto is short for ketogenic. The point of a keto diet is to lose weight through ketosis.
Ketosis is a way to lose weight by stabilizing blood sugar. Ketosis is achieved by significantly reducing the number of carbohydrates they consume. Carbohydrates turn to sugar as it metabolizes and can increase blood sugar. The exact amount of carbohydrates to consume and stay in ketosis will vary from person to person. Karen Kennedy says it typically varies anywhere from 20-60 grams daily. However, this can vary.
Carbohydrates are found in several foods. Grains of any type are usually high in carbohydrates. Anything with sugar is as well. Even fruit, beans, and other whole foods contain these sugars.
Keto can be helpful for some medical conditions such as diabetes or PCOS. These medical conditions benefit from low blood sugar, so that a keto diet can be beneficial.
What Are Micronutrients and Macronutrients?
Micronutrients are the small pieces of your nutritional health where macronutrients are looking at the big pictures.
Micronutrients are things like vitamins and minerals. These are essential things to get into your diet and will impact your health dramatically.
Macronutrients are Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates. All of these provide energy. Carbohydrates will provide quick energy as they change to sugar easily while Protein and Fat take longer to metabolize, so they are good for long-term energy.
It is usually recommended to balance these out equally.
What Are The Similarities Between Gluten Free And Keto?
In practice, these two diets can be very similar.
Because gluten grains are also high in carbohydrates, both diets can work together.
Wheat, rye, and barley are all seeds. These seeds are high in both carbohydrates and gluten. Many other seeds are both gluten free and high in carbohydrates. These other seeds are also restricted on the ketogenic diet while being included in a gluten free diet.
In general, it is a bit of a coincidence that these two diets coincide with many of their foods. And it’s a huge benefit to those of us who need to eat a gluten free diet!
What Does This Mean In Choosing Gluten Free Or Keto Products?
Whew! That’s a lot of information to sift through. So – what does it mean?
The best takeaway from all of the similarities and differences is that it is all coincidence.
If a product is labeled as either gluten free or keto, it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily the other. In my experience, this applies more to gluten free not being keto.
Rice and other gluten free grains are used in many gluten free products. These are not ketogenic friendly, and most packaged products labeled gluten free are not.
On the other hand, many products labeled safe for a ketogenic diet are safe for those needing to follow a gluten free diet because they have that point where they cross paths, and almost everything safe for those on a keto diet will be appropriate for gluten free.
I don’t say almost without knowing specifics so let’s chat about those.
First of all, facilities. Cross-contamination can be a major issue for those needing to be gluten free. So always check ingredients and whether the product was made in a safe facility or on safe lines.
The second is more surprising. Some manufacturers have started using wheat gluten in keto products. They take the part of the grain that contains the carbohydrates, and what they are left with is gluten. They use that to make softer products. However, this means that these products are extremely unsafe for those on a gluten free diet.
So make sure when you are looking at products, you continuously read ingredient lists and facility statements. Never assume that because something is labeled as keto, that is it gluten free!
I want to thank Karen Kennedy at Real Food Matters for taking the time to answer all my questions in such a thorough way! If you are interested in working with her, go over to her website and get to know her a little more.