- Organic food refers to farmed items that are produced following defined standards of farming.
- Gluten free food refers to products that are naturally free from the plant protein called gluten.
- Gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, rye, and triticale may very well be grown organically.
- It can’t be assumed that organic food is gluten free – or vice versa.
Is organic food gluten free? People assume that just because something is organic, it must be gluten free. But hey, organic wheat is also organic but obviously contain gluten.
So you need to educate yourself about the difference between organic food, and gluten free food, and this is exactly what we will do in this post.
If you speak to health-conscious and mindful eaters about what they are eating, they will tell you that they are eating organic food.
Some of them might also tell you that they have chosen to go gluten free. But there’s often a lot of confusion in the conversation: is organic food the same as gluten free food?
The simple answer is “no“. There’s no direct relation between the two.
“Organic” refers to the nature of farming, such that agricultural products, including gluten grains, are grown following the specific standards of “organic farming.”
“Gluten free” refers to the nature of certain grains that contain the plant-based protein called gluten.
If these grains are grown following the standards of organic farming, the grains will be organic and, at the same time, gluten-containing.
Is Organic Good Gluten Free?
Organic food has become the go-to food option for people who make an effort to become healthy and conscious eaters.
There’s a reason people prefer to go organic. Everything organic is produced following a set of prefixed standards, like cycling of resources, promoting ecological balance, not using GMOs, staying away from synthetic, sewage sludge-based, or petroleum-based fertilizers.
If grains are farmed this way, does it mean that they will be gluten free? The answer is “no”.
Gluten is a plant-based protein intrinsically present in grains like wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. It is possible to grow these grains organically, i.e., following the standards of organic farming.
However, this does not, in any way, affect or remove the gluten content of the grains grown organically.
To put it simply, there is no reason to assume that organic food is always gluten free. While “organic” refers to the agricultural process, “gluten content” is an intrinsic property of the grains that refers to the protein in certain grains.
Even naturally gluten-rich grains can be grown organically, but that will not take away the gluten content. So “organic” and “gluten free” don’t come hand in hand.
What Is “Organic” Food?
Organic food refers to agricultural products grown by following specific protocols. Organic farming standards vary from one country to the other, but the basics are mostly the same.
In almost all countries, the primary aim of organic farming is to restrict the use of:
- Synthetic food additives
- Industrial solvents
- Petroleum-based and sewage-based fertilizers
- Synthetic pesticides
Organic farming methods use renewable resources to conserve, besides promoting ecological balance.
The idea is not just to get healthy, chemical-free food but also to grow them in an environment-friendly manner. This helps to preserve the gifts of nature for many years to come.
Benefits of Organic Foods
Conscious eaters choose organic food, not only because it is grown using the best practices to save the world and the environment.
They also know that organic food is extremely good for health. Organic fruits, vegetables, and grains do not contain chemicals and preservatives present in processed food that we usually find in the market. They also contain almost no additives.
Studies reveal that organic crops contain more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients. There’s no dispute that organic food is better for your health.
It is what you can call clean food. It’s a good idea to look for the USDA label to ensure that what you’re buying is, in fact, tested and certified as gluten free. Don’t fall for terms like “all-natural”. These are not necessarily organic.
What Is Gluten-Free?
Gluten, a plant-based protein, is found in grains like wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Gluten adds a chewy texture to foods like bread.
However, it is to be remembered that not all grains contain gluten. Rice, buckwheat, corn, and many other such grains are naturally free of any gluten content.
The gluten-like substance that they contain is starch, which has nothing to do with gluten grains’ content.
The reason some people desperately seek gluten free foods is that gluten is an allergen, i.e., it is a substance to which many people are allergic.
Besides people with gluten allergies, those with an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease also fall sick upon consuming gluten.
The protein is hard to digest for those with gluten-related conditions. Such people have to find gluten free alternatives.
Benefits of Eating Gluten Free Food
When you eat gluten free, you don’t just give up the gluten grains. You also give up a number of other store-bought and packaged foods that might contain gluten.
These either use one of the gluten grains and their byproducts, or they have trace gluten as a result of cross-contamination.
This may limit your food choices, but it’s the only way to prevent allergic reactions and falling ill due to gluten.
Giving up store-bought food may be a blessing as they often use highly processed ingredients with lots of chemicals, additives, and preservatives.
But going gluten free may also mean that you end up fighting the chances of nutritional deficiencies, like folic acid and fibers.
Doctors don’t usually recommend going gluten free unless you’re allergic. It’s a good idea to start taking supplements.
Does Organic Mean Gluten Free?
So the big question is, does choosing organic food mean you’re choosing gluten free food? You guessed it right. The answer is “no“.
But those who have just started making dietary changes to choose wholesome foods and take the path of clean eating seem confused.
They often end up using “organic” and “gluten free” interchangeably. But this is just not true. Gluten-rich food can be organic.
It’s true that both may be perceived as healthier options. After all, organic food means no synthetic pesticides, harmful fertilizers, GMOs, or toxic chemicals.
It’s also free-range and hormone-free, not to mention ethical. As for gluten free food, it eliminates the majority of packaged and restaurant foods, leaving you with fewer processed foods and healthier options, including organic ones.
However, there is no reason to believe or accept that organic food is naturally gluten free, or vice versa. These two are unique terms.
In fact, gluten grains can be farmed organically. If you intend to be a mindful eater, you need to read the list of ingredients and look for certifications.
The same will happen if you want to go gluten free. Both are strictly regulated in the industry of food production.
When is Organic Food Gluten Free – or Gluten Free Food Organic?
If you wish to pick organic and gluten free food options, you need to check the labels and certifications and make sure that the food you’re buying is both.
Gluten free food is either naturally free from gluten, like fruits and cheese, or because it has undergone manufacturing and processing in controlled facilities to prevent cross-contamination and check the presence of trace gluten.
It is possible to buy gluten free food that’s not organically grown. You can always make an effort to take an extra step towards a healthier lifestyle by choosing gluten free food options that are produced organically.
This means that the gluten free options don’t harm you or the environment.
Similarly, you will find organic wheat, barley, rye, and triticale.
If you want your organic food to be gluten free, you need to make sure that none of your organic purchases contain gluten, gluten-rich ingredients, or trace gluten. But one of these properties doesn’t automatically denote the other.
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Interestingly, recent studies focus on how the sharp increase in the number of people diagnosed with celiac disease and gluten intolerance might be linked with the rise in the use of manmade pesticides.
For instance, many effects of celiac disease are similar to the effects of glyphosate.
For instance, imbalance in gut bacteria, impairment in cytochrome enzymes, deficiency of certain elements and amino acids, increased risk to lymphoma, and reproductive issues are associated with celiac disease.
All of these issues can also be explained as effects of glyphosate exposure.
Meanwhile, scientists are trying to find the exact correlation between celiac disease and glyphosate.
They are trying to determine whether pesticides cause gluten intolerance and celiac disease, or the effects of the pesticides on the body simply mimic the reactions of gluten allergy or celiac disease.
Either way, organically farmed food eliminates the use of harmful pesticides. Therefore, consuming organic food reduces the chances of misdiagnosing the effects of pesticides as celiac disease.
It also prevents the development of celiac disease due to pesticides, if that’s at all a possibility.
Myths about Organic and Gluten Free Food
By now, we can assume that we have managed to debunk the biggest myth about the link between “organic” and “gluten free”, even though many people believe that these two terms are interrelated and corresponding.
But these are not the only myths about organic and gluten free foods. There are many other misconceptions between the two. Let’s take a look at them and debunk them.
Myth 1 – Gluten Free is Flavorless
Gluten free food is the only option to alleviate the symptoms of celiac disease and gluten allergy. However, many people are apprehensive about making the change because they believe gluten-free food is not as delicious.
When people first learned about gluten free food and started developing food recipes without them, they did not exactly know how to replace the moreish gluten ingredients.
However, over the years, the celiac communities in the world have developed and shared amazing recipes with the world.
In a matter of just half a decade, many companies have taken a gluten free route to give healthy options to their customers.
Whether you’re cooking at home or picking something off the supermarket shelf, there are several options for delicious gluten-free foods now.
Brands pay great attention to taste and quality so that gluten free alternatives retain the original taste and texture of the gluten-rich foods while eliminating gluten content from them.
The change has been drastic in the last few years. In fact, it is now almost impossible to distinguish between gluten free and gluten-containing foods and recipes. Even cakes and bread are now gluten free.
Myth 2 – Gluten Free Diet is Only for Celiac Patients or Gluten Intolerant People
A gluten-free diet is the only way to keep allergic reactions at bay for people with celiac disease or gluten allergies. However, if you do not have either of the two, you can still shift to a gluten free lifestyle and benefit from it.
Many people believe that gluten free foods are only for those who are pathologically incapable of digesting gluten. But that is nothing but a misconception.
One of the simple reasons is that when you choose gluten free, you naturally eliminate a large number of store-bought, packaged, or restaurant food. You end up cooking at home more often.
You will also need to look for food that’s manufactured and processed properly in hygienic conditions. As a result, gluten free food tends to leave you with clean eating options that are not highly processed.
In addition, gluten grains also contain a soluble fiber called fructans, which, when taken in large amounts, can lead to gastric distress.
Staying away from gluten free food can reduce bloating, gas, and abdominal cramping. People suffering from IBS or digestion problems can also benefit from fructan restrictions.
Plus, gluten free food has less sugar and sodium, making it healthy for everyone.
Myth 3 – Gluten Free and Organic Foods are Expensive
Whether you choose gluten free food options or decide to shop for organic food, the first apprehension is always about the cost.
Judging by the labels alone, some of these foods may seem more expensive. But you will also find non-expensive variants of organic and gluten free food.
In fact, some options may cost less than non-organic and gluten-rich foods. You just have to shop smart.
Compare the prices of the products you want to buy, and shop from local markets. Also, don’t forget to try couponing if the facility is available.
This way, you will notice that even organic and gluten free foods are not only budget-friendly but also cheaper than the alternatives that you are used to buying.
Many people even prefer to pay a little more for the sake of health and the environment.
Organic and gluten free food products prices include costs of labor, natural pesticides and fertilizers, and strict regulations. Meanwhile, farmers, grocers, and co-operatives are trying to ensure that buyers get competitive prices.
They are also more cost-effective than conventional food, as they won’t lead to costs of treatment or environmental cleaning because of chemicals and pesticides.
Myth 4 – Natural, Local, and Free-Range Foods are Organic
Organic food production is a heavily regulated industry, and they always come with proper certifications.
In the market, you will often find foods that are marked natural, local, or free-range. The seller will probably try to sell them to you and tell you that they are the same as organic food.
However, don’t be fooled as a newbie. These are all different terms and are not the same as organic.
Be aware of terms like free-range, natural, and locally grown. While these are also valuable qualities, they do not mean that the item is organic.
Sometimes, a food item labeled “natural” may not even mean anything at all. It is not an official label at all and does not denote any kind of certification.
No strict rules need to be followed at the time of growing foods to earn the other labels. On the other hand, organic food bears the official seal of the USDA after it has undergone several tests.
It is evaluated to see if the farming and processing methods have complied with the standards and strict rules set by the authorities to be deemed “organic food”. So, they are much more trustworthy.
Myth 5: Organic Food Can Neither Feed the medWorld, Nor is it Eco-Friendly.
One of the biggest arguments in favor of organic foods is that they are eco-friendly. However, many people seem to think that it’s not true at all, which is a misconception.
Sure, shifting to organic food will not save the world and the environment overnight. But it is wrong to assume that describing organic food as eco-friendly is nothing but a marketing hype to sell natural foods at higher prices.
The truth is that organic farming standards are primarily aimed at the conservation of biodiversity and maintaining ecological balance.
In organic farming, resources are cycled, and there’s no use of synthetic and chemical pesticides, industrial solvents, irradiation, and other harmful processes.
Therefore, the adverse effects of these on the environment are eradicated in organic farming.
Another myth about organic food is that it can’t be produced in quantities large enough to meet the demand.
Many think that in the process of being more environmentally friendly than conventional food, organic farming becomes more expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive.
But trials have proven that organic farming methods can produce similar yields as conventional methods.
It is safe to say that “organic” and “gluten free” are not synonymous terms for food. They are not complementary or interdependent – or correlated in any way.
You can choose gluten free foods that are conventionally farmed. But it’s a good idea to opt for organic and gluten free foods as they are better for your health and the environment. You must check the labels to see both certifications.