a guide to gluten-free grains
One of the more fun parts about going gluten-free for the elimination diet has been discovering all the fun kinds of naturally occurring gluten-free foods there are out there. I am obviously very new to this, but I’ve already tried a pretty big breadth of grains from my local co-op’s bulk bin and I am amazed at how varied the grains are that are out there today. I thought I might shed a little light on the basics of gluten-free grains and my experience with them. Of course, there are a lot more than what I’m listing here, but is what we are currently using to stay on track.
Amaranth is a teeny-tiny little grain from the Amaranth herb. It’s popularity dates way back to the Aztecs, but almost became extinct after the Spanish banned the grain because Aztecs used it in human sacrifice rituals (!). It was resurrected (har, har, get it?) in the mid-70s and has become increasingly popular ever since.
Amaranth is high in protein, amino fatty acids, fiber, iron and calcium. It has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor. You can also pop amaranth like you do popcorn! I haven’t quite mastered the art without burning it yet.
Naturally, oats are gluten-free, but cross-contamination is so prevalent in oat growing and processing that almost all oats on today’s store shelves contain gluten. It is possible to find some brands of gluten-free oats (make sure to look for packages that explicitly say it).
Oats are best known for their role in breakfast, but oats can also be used in place of breadcrumbs to add texture to savory dishes. Oats are rich in fiber, protein and high in folate, magnesium and thiamin.
Quinoa has become a pretty trendy little grain over the past few years, and for good reason! The flavor of quinoa is really spectacular. I think it tastes buttery and nutty, without ever adding anything to it. When quinoa cooks, the germ of the seed separates and it looks like a little tiny planet with a ring around it. The end result is slightly chewy, but soft.
If you tend to suffer from headaches, try putting more quinoa in your diet! Quinoa is packed full of magnesium which helps restrict blood vessels in the body, which can help relieve headache symptoms. I can actually tell when I’m low on magnesium because I start getting daily headaches.
For some reason, I assumed that rice had gluten in it, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was wrong. I guess I always assumed that something as sticky as rice must have gluten in it. All kinds of rice are gluten-free, but the real nutritional star is brown rice. Brown rice is less processed than other kinds of rice and therefore retains the grain’s original nutritional profile. From WHfoods.com:
The complete milling and polishing that converts brown rice into white rice destroys 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fiber and essential fatty acids.
Buckwheat was a new one for us in the past few weeks, and admittedly, it wasn’t our favorite. Buckwheat takes quite a while to cook and even after cooking, it stays very chewy and solid. If you get roasted buckwheat the flavor is very, very nutty, but the unroasted variety is supposedly milder (we haven’t tried it yet). Buckwheat definitely has its benefits though! It has more fiber than both oats and brown rice.
If you are anything like me, whenever you hear “millet” you automatically think bird seed, but I promise it is human food, too. Once cooked, millet has a fluffy and creamy texture. A cup of cooked millet gives you 24% of your daily allowance of phosphorous. Phosphorous helps to structure almost every cell in the body.