Everyone is avoiding gluten these days, especially with more and more being uncovered about its negative effects on our health. Many suffer from Celiac’s disease, which can have debilitating effects if left unchecked. Others, myself included, have intolerances to consuming gluten. These intolerances can range from mild to severe as well. Since I am a cancer survivor, I try my best to stay away from foods that can cause me problems. So, I have avoided gluten these past several years. But giving up gluten does not have to mean that you need to give up your favorite foods. However, if you are devoted, as I am, to taking care of your health, you can find ways to substitute for just about any “bad” but good-tasting food, gluten included, without feeling denied or unsatisfied.
It is a fact that whole grains play an important role in a healthy, balanced diet and provide essential nutrients our bodies require for good health. Below are my top five choices for gluten-free grains as well as the nutrients that they provide.
Why is brown rice better than white rice? The simple reason is that brown rice provides more nutritional value than white rice. Why? Because in order to make white rice, rice kernels are converted by completely milling and polishing the grain. This process destroys 90% of the vitamin B6, 80% of the vitamin B1, 67% of the vitamin B3, 60% of the iron, half of the manganese and phosphorus as well as all of the essential fatty acids and dietary fiber contained in rice kernels that do not go through this process. With brown rice, only the hull, which is the outermost layer of the rice kernel is removed. This process does the least amount of damage to the overall nutritional value of the rice kernel. When rice has been completely milled and polished into white rice, the USDA requires that it is then enriched with the nutrients that were removed in the milling process. The problem with this is that you are removing the natural nutrients in a healthy food and going back and re-adding synthetic versions of what was removed. Why not just stick to the whole grain in the first place?
Brown rice can be enjoyed in so many ways. Not only can you eat it in the same way you would white rice, but you can also find gluten-free products made with brown rice such as tortillas, bread, flour and rice cakes. All contain the goodness of brown rice, without going through the mill!
Quinoa has been around for centuries. But, if you are new to this wonderful grain, jump on the bandwagon and enjoy not only its delicious flavor and versatility, but also its protein-rich goodness.
This amazing grain was first discovered by the Incas when they realized that it could be consumed by humans. They fed it to their warriors as they believed that it increased their stamina and strength. Quinoa is considered a “supergrain” as it contains twice the fiber of any other whole grain and it contains all 9 amino acids, which makes it one of the most protein-rich foods around. Quinoa’s nutritional value does not stop there, it also contains ample amounts of iron, B2, manganese, and is rich in magnesium.
Quinoa has gained popularity over recent years. In good health food stores you can find gluten-free crackers, pasta, flour and breads made with Quinoa that are delicious. Or, simply cook the grain, the same as you would rice, and consume it in the same way you would rice.
A quick, yummy Quinoa recipe my family enjoys is when I cook my Quinoa with a little vegetable bouillon for flavor. I then add sautéed onion and pine nuts to the cooked Quinoa. This makes an awesome side dish to your favorite meal.
When my teenage daughter saw Millet in the pantry she said, “Why do you have Millet in here? My bird eats that!”
It is true that Millet is a main ingredient in bird seed, but this grain is hearty and nutritious for us humans as well. Millet is chock full of manganese, tryptophan, magnesium and phosphorus, all important nutrients for good health. You can enjoy Millet cooked similar to brown rice, eaten as a breakfast porridge with fruit and nuts as well as countless other ways. It makes a delicious flour which can be used to make breads and a myriad of other uses. The phytonutrients in Millet make it a highly health promoting food. Its lignans are protective against heart disease and postmenopausal woman will gain significant cardiovascular benefit by consuming this grain often.
Most of us have heard of Buckwheat in foods like pancakes, but Buckwheat is actually a fruit seed that is in the same family as sorrel and rhubarb. Buckwheat is a fragrant flowering plant that bees love and use to produce a very strong, dark honey.
Buckwheat contains a good supply of manganese, tryptophan, magnesium, fiber and copper. It’s great for your cardiovascular system and can actually control your blood sugar, reducing your risk of diabetes. Consuming Buckwheat also reduces your risk of developing gall stones. As with all of the grains listed here, Buckwheat is protective against breast cancer because of the quality fiber it contains.
You can cook the grain and enjoy it hot or cold as a side dish. Buckwheat can also be ground and used as a dense flour. I prefer to mix Buckwheat flour with another whole grain (preferably gluten-free) to enjoy make it a bit lighter.
Oats have been around and enjoyed as oatmeal for quite a while. Although Oats are often hulled, the process does not do damage to its germ and bran allowing them to retain their fiber and nutrients even after the hulling process.
Oats are rich in manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and fiber. They can lower cholesterol and reduce one’s risk of heart disease. They stabilize blood sugar which helps to reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
I like to grind my Oats into a flour. They are versatile and can be used in place of gluten-containing flours in baking.