Gluten-Free vs Grain-Free PLUS a free printable list of grains to avoid. Some might surprise you. Which is healthiest? Remember this – gluten-free junk is still junk!

Gluten-Free vs Grain-Free + Printable List Of Grains To Avoid

Gluten Free vs Grain Free |

So we’ve all heard about going gluten-free. Is it necessary? Is it the latest fad diet? Is it for everyone? What about healthy whole grains? And what is so wrong with gluten anyway, surely we’ve been eating bread for thousands of years right? 

 Gluten-Free Junk Is Still Junk

list of grains

To get your FREE printable A-Z List Of Grains & Foods To Avoid – CLICK HERE.

So what is gluten?

Gluten is just one of the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. It can also be found in makeup, medication, sweets, ice cream, sauces, paint, sunscreens and even lipstick. Many people have to avoid gluten because they have Crohn’s disease, are a coeliac or suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.

These are conditions that when gluten is eaten it inflames the gut. Symptoms include pain, discomfort, bloating, skin rashes, weight loss, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and/or constipation.

What is an allergy?

A true allergy is where your body protects itself from an allergen such as peanuts or shellfish. Reactions can be mild or cause an anaphylactic shock that requires emergency treatment with adrenaline, otherwise, it can be fatal.

An autoimmune disease is where the body protects itself from an allergen by attacking its own healthy tissues. Symptoms can be take days, months or years to show such as arthritis, thyroid.

An intolerance is where someone cannot tolerate a type of food such as lactose. The immune system is not involved, but symptoms are just as severe.

So what about the rest of us who have no symptoms and no problem whatsoever eating gluten?

Even without obvious symptoms (I never had any) gluten affects the permeability of the stomach lining. This porous lining now allows toxins, bacteria and large proteins to pass through the walls and enter the bloodstream, causing inflammation.

It is inflammation within our bodies which are now understood to be the basis of many adverse health conditions.

Gluten Free vs Grain Free - which is healthiest? Remember this - gluten-free junk is still junk Click to Tweet

The Gluten-Free Market 

This is now a multi-billion dollar industry that has sprung up because of the marketing surrounding gluten-free goods. You can now buy gluten-free bread, cakes, biscuits, cakes, pasta, sauce, soups and pretty much any other baked good you can think of.

Gluten-free does not always mean wheat free. “Some manufacturers use wheat that has had the gluten removed to make gluten-free foods. Therefore you need to exercise a bit of caution, as all gluten-free foods are not necessarily safe for you to eat if you have a wheat allergy or intolerance. Some products help by actually saying “wheat & gluten free” on the label.” Source:

Gluten-free products and flours are generally based on high carbohydrate alternatives such as rice flour, potato and tapioca starch. Gluten-free products have almost zero nutrition.

Take a look at the nutrition panel, you will see how high the carbohydrate content is and any vitamins or minerals it contains, are usually added because it is fortified. Gluten-free products are incredibly expensive and some may say, akin to junk food.

Sadly advertisers and marketing gurus (“who base their careers on fluff and wonder” – Nigel Latta) give us nutritional advice and sell them to us as being healthy. Gluten-free products swap gluten for high carbohydrate alternatives. There is even gluten-free, wheat-free weet-bix! It is marketed as low in sugar (yes, this is true) but it is 75% carbs – which raise your blood sugar!

Don’t be fooled by marketing and hype. Don’t read what a product doesn’t contain, read what it does.

To get your FREE printable A-Z List Of Grains & Foods To Avoid – CLICK HERE.

list of grains

Healthy Whole Grains 

Look at the nutrition panel of most bread and they will proudly state they contain fibre, vitamin B’s and folic acid to name a few. These vitamins and minerals are fortified to the bread because the milling process removes most of the nutrients and healthy fats from the wheat.

Wholegrain bread is better than refined white bread if you have to choose but try no bread as often as you can. It’s cheaper and healthier. Eat more sandwich fillings (the nutritious element).

You’ll gain far more nutrients this way than any lost by missing out the 2 slices of bread.

Why is wheat so bad now? People have been eating it for thousands of years! 

Modern wheat is not the same as the wheat our grandparents and ancestors ate. Wheat used to be 6ft tall but has been genetically modified to a shorter semi-dwarf plant that it is easier to harvest, bred to be resistant to viruses, contains 20-30% fewer nutrients, and contain more gluten. Wheat still contains phytates which are indigestible, making the trace vitamins present unusable. So the wheat today is not the wheat our ancestors ate.

Aren’t whole grains the base of the healthy food pyramid?

It all started when the US Senator McGovern in the 1970’s changed the food pyramid to what it is today.

It was an easy solution to feed America on cheap grains and food stamps. Wheat lobbyists pushed for more wheat consumption and subsidies.

America was facing a malnutrition crisis. Fast forward to today, obesity is at its highest rate and so is T2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

What changed? Wheat, grain and sugar consumption.

To get your FREE printable A-Z List Of Grains & Foods To Avoid – CLICK HERE.

Diagram showing teaspoons of sugar in different foods

To see the full article “How carbs affect blood sugars”CLICK HERE.

So what is a grain and how does it affect my blood sugar?

Grains raise your blood sugar as much as table sugar. So eating bread, pasta and rice leaves you just as much at risk of developing diabetes as eating sweets and sugary foods to excess.

Recommendations for diabetics were always reducing sugar, bread, rice and potatoes. These are good practices to live by. The most common examples of grains are wheat, oats, corn, rice, quinoa, millet, sorghum, bulgar.

To see the list of grains to avoid, download your free printable PDF above.

How else do grains affect my body?

Grains may cause leaky gut (with or without symptoms) which allows toxins such as bacteria, viruses and larger proteins to bypass the protective lining and enter the bloodstream. This causes autoimmune conditions and inflammation which are related to asthma, depression, migraines, PCOS, arthritis, fatigue,

Advertisers hope if they add a “gluten-free” label or “contains healthy whole grains” slogan on the box, they may convince consumers they are buying a healthy alternative, regardless of what else has gone into the product. And by labelling products as gluten-free or healthy whole grains, studies show that people will consume more.

Is going grain free restrictive? Aren’t you giving up entire food groups?

Vegetarians give up entire food groups, all we do is give up grains.

It may appear to be restrictive purely because grains are now found in just so many ‘products’. Those products are modern inventions.

Most of what we see on the supermarket shelves just wasn’t available 10 or 20 years ago. By eating real food and have a balanced, varied approach, you eat far more nutrients than ever before.

What my family eats is similar to what our grandparents ate. Meat, fish, vegetables and plenty of healthy fats. No bread or pasta is required to bulk up our meal anymore. All these do is crowd out the nutrition.

So to say a product is healthier because it is gluten-free or contains healthy whole grains is misleading and naïve.

Gluten-free products are incredibly highly processed food ‘products’ which are more a product of industry than real food. Don’t swap real food for gluten-free foods.

Yes, you remove gluten from your diet but are replacing them with high carb high substitutes which will make your blood glucose skyrocket, cause weight gain, increase fat storage and poor lipid results.

How To lead a healthy lifestyle and take charge of your health –

By eliminating grains, sugar, refined carbohydrates and seed oils, we are setting the foundation for reducing inflammation in our body and our risk of all the major diseases associated with old age. Alzheimer’s, T2 diabetes,  arthritis, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, stroke.

Making the change to grain-free, sugar-free and no seed oils can be difficult. I always recommend starting slowly. Don’t go hardcore and remove everything at once.

Begin by removing the obvious sources of sugar (cakes, biscuits, sweets, drinks), then start to remove the bread and pasta, then remove the rice and so on. Make it easy on yourself and your family.

If your children find this change too hard, you won’t continue. And it doesn’t have to be all or nothing either.

Don’t think because you can’t eliminate all these foods entirely, you may as well not do it. Every little step you take, allows you to gain better health. Be proud of any changes you make. Keep going. Read labels.

And remember this: Grains are used to fatten animals before slaughter and grains are force-fed to geese to produce fatty liver disease which is used to make foie gras. Do you want to either of these to happen to you?

Healthy oils include:

  • Avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, lard, macadamia oil, butter.

What to eat:

  • Base all your meals on the simple guide of meat, fish, veggies, berries, nuts and healthy oils
  • Avoid the bread, cake, biscuit, cracker aisle.
  • Buy ingredients, not products.
  • Buy food that your grandmother would recognise
  • Avoid cereals
  • Avoid processed food and takeaway food
  • Avoid low-fat foods, they are high in carbs and heavily processed
  • Read, read, read labels. You soon get to know what to/not to buy
  • Make it simple

Mockup of the pages from the a to Z list of grains document

To get your FREE printable A-Z List Of Grains & Foods To Avoid – CLICK HERE.

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  1. sandra jared says:

    Is there any way these ingredients can be translated in lbs. and oz.

    1. Yes Sandra, take a look at my cooking conversions charts. I used to measure in cups, but because it is an International website, cups vary between countries and would be inaccurate, so I use grams and most people use electronic scales so it is easy for Americans to be convert.

  2. The advert on the side of your page is for gluten free weetbix – I think you can change your settings in google ads if you don’t want these types of ads to display. I agree with your points re gluten free products – they are often even more refined than grain products. I have to disagree that eliminating grains is necessary for reducing lifestyle diseases. Sure, refined grains, and sugars. But there are benefits in wholegrains. The worlds longest lived, healthiest populations eat wholegrains as a part of their diet – There are different ways to be healthy. Wholegrains can be a part of that if you choose to eat them.

  3. Karen Grimes says:

    love this but cannot forward by email to my older friends who only use email. I really want an email link. Thanks

  4. Janet Mitchell says:

    You need a serious proofreader.

      1. Lol !!! Love your reply. and I love your article too! Trying to go grain free. Have given up wheat. Its harder to give up rice since we grew up eating rice all the time!

        1. Thank you Riya. I’m still not sure if they are offering me a serious proofreader, or a serious, proofreader. I’d prefer a humorous one 😉

          1. 😛 no one would want a “Serious” one .. would be difficult to work with lol…

  5. My husband has had diabetes for 2 years so we’re already enjoying low carb eating. And now I’ve been told to go grain-free because of Hashimoto’s. But I’m still confused about grain vs gluten. If something is gluten free does that mean it doesn’t contain grain? Vice versa? I feel like this article is saying watch your grain intake because gluten free food isn’t necessarily healthy. Correct? I know low carb but I’ve got a lot to learn about grain-free. P.S. I’ll happily proof read for you!

    1. Hi Sandy. Gluten free products usually contain grains as they can be full of rice starch, corn starch etc so gluten free products are generally high in carbs, highly processed and pretty much nutritionally devoid. By going grain free you are naturally gluten free, i.e.: there will be no gluten in your foods by default. Hey and thanks for the offer of proof reading, you’re a star 🙂

    2. Gluten is found in lots of foods…don’t be fooled…

  6. Hi! Would love to know your thoughts on quinoa – I know it is technically a seed but it seems it is often labeled a grain. Having quinoa in the mix will definitely make giving up rice a bit easier.


  7. Libby,
    Great article. Thanks for making it so easy to understand. I love the statement “read what is in your food, not what is left out.” Super helpful!! Thanks!!!!!

  8. My granny was happy eating rice and oats. Billions of Chinese live on rice. Potatoes can be good for you as well. Gluten and refined sugars are the problem. Natural sugars are not a problem for most people.

  9. great article. I do eat rice on the weekends, sweet potato and starchy veggies, after having gallbladder issues I had to cut all my healthy raw greens, eggs, red meat, coconut, most nuts etc.. so was living on chicken and rice and sweet potato after being paleo for 5+ yrs, I actually lost 14kg! I now eat more carbs post surgery ( 6 weeks)but have got my fats up slowly. Hoping to reduce the carbs again but love my pumpkin soup and sweet potato and hubbys rice on the weekend 🙂 I am now underweight ( lost another 3kg since surgery) and dont gain any with what I am eating?

    What are your thoughts on buckwheat? I was thinking of adding porridge back in for a change but now not so sure!
    I still can tolerate a lot of red meat or raw veg or eggs. Nuts trigger IBS so have to watch my amount.

  10. “gluten free products are wheat free” is incorrect. Gluten is one protein out of several in wheat. Some of the non-gluten proteins in wheat include albumin, globulin and amphiphilic. Therefore some GF products still use non-gluten wheat protein and other non-gluten wheat starches in their GF products. This we discovered when it was a non-gluten wheat component that my children couldn’t tolerate, they were actually ok with gluten (in Rye and Barley). GF does not equal wheat free, although predominately that does end up being the case.

  11. Tova Broide says:

    Hi Libby,
    Great post. I’ve an avid believer in LCHF, and trying to get back on it after having a baby. (I tried to keep at it during pregnancy, but it was too hard with my HG and GD together!) My question to you is, for religious reasons I need to eat a small amount of bread- real bread, made from grains – on the weekends. Is there a preference to a certain whole grain over another one? I know all grains are bad on LCHF, and I used to eat the bread dipped in olive oil to slow the impact of the carbs, but is whole spelt better than whole wheat or is there minimal difference?

    Thanks for everything you do. I’m loving SF September – no time like the present to get healthy.

    1. Great question about the bread. Spelt bread is just as high in carbs as regular bread, so why not stick with whatever everyone else is having and because it is only a small amount and it is part of your religion and special family social time. I love the idea of dipping the bread in olive oil. Yum. And how wonderful that you have enjoyed Sugar-Free September so much, it really is a wonderful way to give your body a re-set for 30 days. Your motivation I am sure will last far longer and will continue life long. Well done Tova.

  12. Fascinating post, I’m really trying to reduce grains due to digestive issues. I’m so used to having a bowl of porridge every morming, mistakenly believing it was a healthy breakfast – would you suggest avoiding oats? Also try to only eat sourdough bread (or homemade spelt loaf) but now thinking they’re best avoided too?!

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  14. The conclusion of this article left me smiling. I’ve been surprised at how easy it has been to let go of most grain things and potatoes. I do still have a tortilla (with the top layer peeled off) for a quesadilla and I do still often eat the skin of a baked potato, when my husband cooks them, but I don’t miss potato skins if I don’t have them. I’ll have to start making keto tortillas, just haven’t gotten there yet. Your advice about reading labels is spot on. One learns amazing, useful things that way.

    1. 5 stars
      Thank you, Susan, I’m glad you found this article useful (and left smiling). Reading the nutrition labels can be one of the biggest life lessons to ever learn. You don’t have to do it forever, but it is a crash course in what to avoid, and what to enjoy.