Wheat Free vs Gluten Free (there’s a difference)

The term ”gluten free” is everywhere and the mixed use of the terms gluten and wheat can be confusing.

If you struggle with gluten intolerance, you likely know exactly how to spot gluten-free foods.

But, did you know “wheat-free” does not mean the product is ‘gluten-free' and vice versa.

Among gluten foods, wheat is one of the main grains that are rich in gluten.

Yet when the label reads ”wheat-free” it is not the same thing as ”gluten-free”. The terms are not interchangeable.

To understand this difference let's take a close look at what it means to be allergic to wheat and gluten.

wheat free vs gluten free

Wheat allergy: If you're allergic to wheat it means that you're allergic to any of the four types of wheat proteins.

Wheat proteins include albumin, globulin, gliadin and gluten. Exposure to wheat triggers allergic reactions in your body.

This means your body will react in a negative way from eating wheat or even inhaling wheat flour.

Gluten intolerance: This means your body doesn't react well to gluten, one of the wheat proteins.

You're unable to digest gluten well. The condition results in abnormal immune system reaction and can lead to celiac disease.

There's a lot more than meets the eye when you're seeking the truth about gluten.

Wheat-free Vs Gluten-free

There's a huge difference between wheat-free and gluten-free.

In a nutshell, if you're allergic to the protein in wheat, choose wheat-free products.

So, don't choose “wheat-free” to avoid gluten proteins, it's better to choose “gluten-free.

If you're avoiding wheat as a plant component in your food, ”wheat-free” is a good choice. I recommend EVERYONE to avoid wheat.

If you are allergic to gluten, the term “wheat-free” alone is not enough. You'll have to choose a gluten-free product.

This is because gluten can come from other crops too like barley, rye, spelt, and Kamut.

Here's a way to remember that can make it simpler for you –

“While all wheat contains gluten, not all gluten comes from wheat.”

Sources of wheat proteins

wheat free vs gluten free blueberry muffins

  • Most baked items like cookies, muffins, cakes, bread and bread crumbs
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Couscous, farina, semolina, Spelt
  • Many pastas (but not all pasta)

Other hidden sources: 

wheat free vs gluten free

  • beer
  • hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • a lot of sauces
  • many dips
  • ketchup
  • most processed meat
  • dairy products

Non-food sources include cosmetics, play dough and a lot of bath products.

Please note that the above is not an exhaustive list, do consult your allergist for a detailed list.

Sources of gluten

  • Wheat (including semolina, durum, spelt, triticale)
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Oats – They don't contain gluten by composition, but may get cross-contaminated in the facility. Choose oats labeled ‘gluten-free' to be sure.

Want to go wheat-free AND gluten-free?

Some good choices include:

  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Proteins from lean meats, and beans
  • Grains that do not contain wheat or gluten like rice and quinoa
  • Baking alternatives like coconut flour, and almond flour

If you're not allergic to grains other than wheat, a wheat-free diet is less restrictive. BUT… whether you are gluten intolerant or allergic to wheat, it is best to avoid wheat at all cost.

Wheat can wreak havoc on your digestive system no matter who you are. It's a huge source of gut irritation, and can cause silent inflammation.

Avoiding wheat will help you lose weight too since good gut health equates to easier weight loss!

Try Ezekiel bread from sprouted grains as an alternative to wheat bread. It's my favorite and I recommend it because it's high in fiber and low on the Glycemic Index.

Yours in health and happiness,


P.S. Please share this with your friends and I welcome your comments below. Did you realize wheat-free and gluten-free and not one in the same?