Difference Between Gluten-free and Paleo

Main Difference – Gluten-free vs Paleo

Different types of healthy dietary plans have gained a lot of attention in recent years. However, selecting dietary plans to improve health and wellbeing may sometimes be a confusing and difficult task. Gluten-free and Paleo diets are two popular dietary plans in the modern world. Many consumers still have very narrow knowledge about these dietary lifestyles and also many people incorrectly use the terms “Gluten-free” and “Paleo” interchangeably. A gluten-free diet can be defined as a diet that excludes gluten, a protein compound that originates in wheat, barley, rye etc. In contrast,  Paleo diet is gluten free, dairy free and preservative free diet and it can be more restrictive diet than regular gluten free diet. Although this is the main difference between gluten-free and paleo diets, the dietary guidelines may also differ between gluten-free and paleo diets. Therefore, it is important to identify the difference between gluten-free and paleo diets in order to select the dietary lifestyle. In this article, let’s discuss the difference between gluten-free and paleo.

What is Gluten-free Diet

A gluten-free diet is a dietary plan that eliminates a protein compound called gluten, which is mainly found in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, rye etc. Gluten is a protein that has little nutritional and biological value, and this protein is not essential to the human diet. Gluten protein can give rise to a number of health complications including coeliac disease, wheat allergy, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia and dermatitis herpetiformis. Gluten-free diets are mainly designed for these patients because these diets are demonstrated effective treatment. Furthermore, the gluten-free diet may also prevent or manage irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or HIV enteropathy. A gluten free-diet derived is mainly from naturally gluten-free foods with a proper amount of required micro and macro nutrients. Gluten-free diets usually comprise with meat, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice, maize etc.Difference Between Gluten-free and Paleo

What is a Paleo Diet

The paleo diet can be defined as foods that are free from grain, diary and preservatives. This is also known as a paleolithic diet, caveman diet or stone-age diet. This dietary pattern includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, meat, and organ meats while excluding foods such as dairy products, grains, sugar, legumes, processed oils, salt, and alcohol or coffee. The paleo diet is mainly designed to improve health.

Main Difference - Gluten-free vs Paleo

Difference Between Gluten-free and Paleo


Gluten-free: Gluten-free diet includes food or a diet that does not contain gluten.

Paleo: Paleo is a natural food or a diet that does not contain gluten, dairy, alcohol and any artificial preservative or chemical.

Grains in the Diet

Gluten-free: Gluten-free diets exclude gluten, a protein composite found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye etc. However, gluten-free grains such as rice, corn, quinoa and oats are allowed.

Paleo: Paleo is a grain free diet. Beans and legumes are also not allowed in this diet. So, paleo is also categorized as a gluten free diet.

Dairy Products in the Diet

Gluten-free: Gluten-free diets include dairy products.

Paleo: Paleo diets exclude dairy products.

Artificial Food Additives and Processed Products 

Gluten-free: Gluten-free diets include artificial food additives and processed products.

Paleo: Paleo diets exclude artificial food additives and processed products.

Target Health Benefits

Gluten-free: Gluten-free is mainly targeted toward a specific set of health problems including food allergies and intolerance.

Paleo: Paleo diet helps to reduce the risk for chronic non-communicable diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Target Consumers

Gluten-free: People usually go for a gluten-free diet if they suffer from gluten intolerance or have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition known as celiac disease. This disease affects the digestive system and it can inhibit the proper absorption of nutrients, if not treated. Celiac disease patients frequently experience symptoms of digestive upset including gas, cramping, and diarrhea.

Paleo: Many consumers, irrespective of their disease or health status, switch to the paleo dietary plans because they think it is a healthier alternative to the modern Western diet. Also, this is popular among sportsmen and physically active individuals.

Laws and Regulations

Gluten-free: Gluten-free diet is protected through a series of laws and regulations and regulation of the label gluten-free varies by country.

Paleo: Paleo diet is not protected by laws and regulations.


Gluten-free: The main objective is to take a balanced diet including all food groups and exclude gluten.

Paleo: The main objective is to take a diet mainly based on natural fruits, vegetables, lean meat, sea foods and healthy foods in order to improve the health and well-being. Difference Between Gluten-free and Paleo- infographic

In conclusion, both gluten-free and paleo diets are two types of popular healthy dietary plans in the world. Although many people switch to a gluten-free diet out of medical requirements, some other consumers also do so simply because they think it is a healthier alternative to the modern Western diet. However, gluten-free doesn’t necessarily make them healthy because processed gluten-free foods can still be high in sugar and bad fats as well as artificial ingredients. In contrast, the paleo diet is both gluten-free and all natural and it’s a healthier option compared to gluten-free diet.


Elton, S (2008). Environments, Adaptation, and Evolutionary Medicine: Should We be Eating a Stone Age Diet? In S. Elton, P. O’Higgins (ed.), Medicine and Evolution: Current Applications, Future Prospects. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. P. 9. ISBN 978-1-4200-5134-6.

Mulder CJ, van Wanrooij RL, Bakker SF, Wierdsma N, Bouma G (2013) Gluten-free diet in gluten-related disorders. Dig Dis. (Review) 31 (1): 57–62.

Ungar PS, Grine FE, Teaford MF (2006) Diet in Early Homo: A Review of the Evidence and a New Model of Adaptive Versatility. Annual Review of Anthropology 35 (1): 209–228.

Image Courtesy:

“Gluten Free” (CC BY-SA 3.0 NY) via Picserver.org

“Paleo CrossFit recovery breakfast” by Amy Sellek (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

About the Author: Geesha

Geeshani has a BSc (Hons) degree in Food Science and Technology and Master's degree in Food and Nutrition. She is currently a PhD Student at the Massey Institute of Food Science and Technology. Sharing what she learned is a passion of hers and enjoys writing.