Given that the keto diet involves drastically cutting carb intake, you may be wondering, "Is keto gluten-free?"
Surprisingly, the answer is no—keto is not always gluten-free. For example, soy sauce is considered to be a keto-friendly food, but it also contains gluten.
And vice versa—gluten-free doesn't always equal keto. Sweet potatoes, for example, are gluten free but won't keep you in a state of fat-burning ketosis, which is the ultimate goal of a ketogenic diet.
So what's the difference? Learn what keto and gluten-free really mean and what you need to know if you choose to combine them.
What Is Keto?
Keto, short for ketogenic, is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. It involves reducing your intake of carbohydrates and replacing them with fat to put your body into a ketogenic state.
When the body enters a ketogenic state, it starts breaking down stored fat to use as energy until you start eating carbs again. A keto diet usually involves eating fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day.
A keto diet often is often free of gluten, as most people following this eating plan will avoid wheat and other grains. Gluten is a protein found in grains that for some people can trigger health problems.
Following a gluten-free diet doesn't mean that you have to be carb-free. There are many naturally gluten-free foods that have carbohydrates, including:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Dairy products
If you were following a ketogenic diet, you would be more likely to avoid or limit foods like fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.
Foods you would avoid on a gluten-free diet and avoid or limit on a ketogenic diet are:
- Triticale, which is a cross between wheat and rye
People can experience symptoms like brain fog, nausea, fatigue, and hunger when they first switch to a ketogenic diet; these symptoms are often called "keto flu." Thankfully, the symptoms should quickly disappear when the body begins burning fat rather than carbs. (It's important, of course, to do your own research and consult your practitioner before adopting any new eating plan, including the keto diet, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.)
Sample Meal Plans
Are you thinking about giving keto a try but aren't sure where to start? Here are three examples of different meal plans you could try that are both keto and gluten-free. You can modify them as you like, but be sure to stay under 50 grams of carbs per day or you'll risk knocking yourself out of ketosis.
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with sun-dried tomatoes, avocado and bacon
- Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with cucumber, avocado, tomato and onions; olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette for dressing
- Dinner: Garlic butter steak with a side of mushrooms and asparagus
- Breakfast: Omelet with mushrooms, broccoli and peppers
- Lunch: Tuna salad with tomatoes and avocado
- Dinner: Pork chops with a side of non-starchy vegetable or zucchini noodles
- Breakfast: Two or three eggs fried in butter or oil with avocado and a side of berries
- Lunch: Spiced cauliflower soup with bacon pieces or tofu cubes
- Dinner: Cajun-spiced chicken breast with cauliflower rice
Healthy Sources of Fat
While fats are by their nature gluten-free, it’s still important to watch what kinds of fats you eat. As you can see by the meal plans above, avocado is a popular keto-friendly fat source. Here are a couple of others.
MCTs, or medium-chain triglycerides, are popular with keto dieters, as they can be easily broken down and used as fuel. Coconut oil is the richest natural source of MCTs.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to greater well-being in a number of ways. You can get more omega-3 in your diet by eating fatty fish, such as wild-caught salmon, flax seeds and walnuts. These essential fats are also available in supplement form; look for a product created with an eye towards maximum purity.
Nutritional Deficiencies to Watch For
While cutting carbs from your plate on a ketogenic diet can trim your waistline, it can also cut nutrients that your body was accustomed to getting through food. Here are some possible deficiencies that may arise.
Sodium gets a bad rap...yet it's a crucial element in your diet. Your body needs sodium to regulate the fluid balance in your body; a dip in sodium can lead to keto flu symptoms, including headaches, weakness, exhaustion and nausea. The best way to replenish your sodium is through food, either by adding a natural salt, such as sea salt, or by sipping bone broth. (If you have blood pressure issues, speak with your practitioner first.)
As your body gets rid of extra water and minerals, it will also lose potassium. Signs of potassium deficiency are fatigue and muscle cramps. To boost your potassium levels, try eating mushrooms, kale, spinach or avocados.
Magnesium is the other critical micronutrient to monitor. Some signs that you may have low magnesium are fatigue, appetite loss and weakness. If you want to increase your magnesium through keto-friendly foods, try eating more spinach, Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds and avocado. Or you can take a multivitamin such as KetoLiving™ Daily Multi Capsules. It contains magnesium and potassium along with additional minerals, vitamins and other crucial nutrients, such as alpha lipoic acid and CoQ10, as well as a probiotic blend.
While being on a ketogenic diet doesn't necessarily increase your risk of being deficient in vitamin D, a vitamin D deficiency is common in general, which is why it's a good idea to consider adding this nutrient in supplemental form.
If you are thinking of going gluten-free along with maintaining a ketogenic lifestyle, you may find that you're all the better for it. And hey, if you're already following a keto diet, you're almost gluten-free already. Try making the switch to both keto and gluten-free to see how you feel.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.