Top 9 Gluten-Free Whole Grains You’ve Got To Try!

About 1 in 133 people have Celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with the nutrient absorption of food. Gluten is a protein that exists in wheat, barley and rye. It’s essential that people with Celiac follow a very strict gluten-free diet to avoid the damage referred to above.

However, there are many people who don’t have Celiac who follow gluten-free diets. There have been conflicting results on the number of people who have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity. Research is evolving, and more studies need to be conducted to determine the exact incidence. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity can range from digestive disorders to skin issues to asthma or joint pain. Many practitioners have seen improvements in patients who state they have gluten sensitivity after they introduce a gluten-free diet. I have seen improvements in people who believe they have gluten sensitivity and have psoriasis, gastrointestinal issues, RA and joint- or arthritis-like pain.

Gluten-free diets have grown in popularity in the last 5 years, with hundreds of gluten-free foods flooding the markets! But there are many unhealthful gluten-free products on the market, made of refined flours that can deprive you of needed nutrients. So when you go gluten-free, you’ve got to go whole grain to make sure your diet is anti-inflammatory. Whole grains are kernels of grains with intact seed, germ and bran layers, so they retain all the nutrition you need to nourish your body. Plus, they provide fiber, antioxidants, folate, magnesium and B vitamins. Refined whole grains don’t give you the whole deal – and leave you with mostly starch. Here are several gluten-free grains to give a try that are all packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and unique phytochemicals to fight off disease.

1. Millet

This is a tiny grain that comes most often in yellow but can be bought in white, gray or red. Toast it lightly on the stovetop for a couple minutes before cooking it like rice. It’s great in salads, casseroles, hot breakfast cereal or rice-like dishes.

2. Quinoa

This is a tiny fruit seed that looks like a grain. It comes in gold, red and black. It’s high in protein, can lower cholesterol, and is rich in antioxidants. Buy it pre-rinsed, or swish and drain in a bowl before cooking like rice to remove some of the saponins, which can cause a bitter flavor. It’s delicious in chopped green salad with dried cherries or other fruit, nuts and accented with feta and balsamic vinegar. It can also be enjoyed cooked in chicken or vegetable broth, consumed as quinoa pasta (often a mixture of quinoa and corn) or as a hot cereal.

3. Whole grain cornmeal

Whole grain cornmeal used in foods like polenta, cornbread or tortillas. For polenta look for it in an oval shaped plastic lining in many stores like Trader Joes in the non-refrigerator section. Cut polenta rounds about an inch in thickness. Then broil or cook under medium-low heat on the stove top with canola, olive or grapeseed oil and rosemary. Make it into tortillas and you’ll never want to buy them store bought again!

4. Buckwheat

This is a brown triangular seed. It’s loaded with antioxidants and may help lower blood pressure. The flour makes delicious pancakes and noodles. You can also eat it like breakfast cereal and cook it like rice. You may have had buckwheat as buckwheat groats, buckwheat flour, “soba” noodles (Japanese), “pizzoccheri” pasta (Italian), or “kasha” (roasted groats). Buckwheat pancakes are one of my favorite foods! Their rich color almost has a purple hue and looks lovely covered in berries.

5. Amaranth

Amaranth a tiny seed that is rich in minerals. Like quinoa, it is high in protein. It also contains more lysine than most grains. You can cook it like rice, serve as a hot cereal, add to granola mixes, or use the flour in baking. Use a small amount, because it has a bit of a peppery taste — make about 1/3 of the whole grain amaranth. I’ve used the flour in whole grain cereal bars with success when added to other gluten-free grains. The grain is also good as a veggie stuffing for peppers.

6. Popcorn

We all know this grain that comes in white, yellow or blue. Keep the air popper out if you have the counter space – you’ll be more likely to pop more often! Mix in your favorite dried herbs like rosemary, basil and parsley with some Parmesan cheese and it can serve as a snack or appetizer.

7. Gluten-Free Oats

You’ve heard for years how oats can lower cholesterol, and it’s true! They can be eaten raw in muesli, or you can blend the oats in your food processor to make flour that can be used in pancakes, cereal bars or baking. For baking you’ll need to add guar gum to help with baking consistency because of the lack of gluten, which helps things stick. 100% whole grain banana bread made with gluten-free oat flour is delicious. Oats are also good added to turkey meatloaf.

8. Brown Rice

Lately brown rice has been getting a bad rap because of possible arsenic contamination. But it’s still okay to use. I recommend limiting to 2-3 cups a week. Rinse very well before cooking and cook in extra water – then dump out the extra water after cooking.

9. Teff

Teff is a tiny kernel that come in white, red and brown with a sweet nutty flavor. Teff is often added to baked goods and vegetable stews, and can be consumed like a hot cereal or enjoyed similar to polenta.

If you want vitamin E, potassium, fiber, B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, iron and phyto-nutrients that fight off disease, embrace whole grains at least 75% of the time. In addition to helping contribute to an anti-inflammatory diet, they can help stave off type 2 diabetes, reduce blood pressure, lower heart disease risk, and help with weight management. Plus, whole grains along with a diet high in fruits, veggies and a low fat may also help protect against Alzheimer’s later in life. Now that’s something to think about!

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