Most people find whole grains are a delicious way to improve their health, and they enjoy the pleasures of choosing among all the different whole grains. However, the millions of people who can’t properly digest gluten must choose their grains carefully.
Eating gluten-free and nutritiously can be very challenging; you have to make every bite count. There are grains that are gluten free and there are gluten free whole grains.
The word whole can make a big difference. It’s important to note that gluten-intolerant people CAN eat whole grains. Whole grains contain, as you might guess the whole grain including the germ and the bran. They have many more nutrients than processed grains and more fiber too.
There are more whole grains that are gluten-free than gluten-containing. It’s just that the gluten-containing whole grains and products have been more prevalent in our food supply and this is slowly changing.
No matter what gluten free grain you choose- cold cereal, pasta or flour always opt for whole grain or enriched version.
Here is a list of gluten-free grain choices
It’s overall nutrient profile is similar to that of cereals hence also referred as a pseudo-cereal. It contains thrice the average amount of calcium and is high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
It is the only grain documented to contain Vitamin C. A protein powerhouse- at about 13-14%, it easily trumps the protein content of most other grains.
The protein in amaranth referred to as “complete” because it contains lysine, an amino acid missing or negligible in many grains. Amaranth has shown potential as a cholesterol-lowing whole grain which is good for your heart. Popped like corn or eaten as porridge, it is a popular ingredient in cereals and baked goods.
It has been providing essential nutrients to humanity for approximately 8,000 years.
The bioavailability of zinc, copper, and potassium from buckwheat is quite high. Buckwheat also provides a very high level of protein, second highest only to oats with an amino acid score of 100.
It is a valuable source of soluble fiber and resistant starch-plays highly advantageous role in overall digestive health and maintaining balanced blood sugar levels. Soba noodles, blintz, Kasha are some of the savory dish made from Buckwheat.
Also known as “maize” in most of the world. Often debated, is corn a grain or a vegetable? Fresh corn is usually classified as a vegetable and dried corn (including popcorn) as a grain.
Each whole grain offers different nutrients, and in the case of corn, its high point is Vitamin A – with more than 10 times that of other grains. Corn is often nixtamalized– soaked in an alkaline solution (often lime-water) – then drained and made into masa flour, tortillas and other foods.
The process makes many of the corn kernel’s B vitamins more bioavailable, while also adding calcium. (The only downside: a small amount of bran is lost in the soaking)
It is not just one grain, but the name given to a group of several different small-seeded grains from several different genera of the grass family.
Millet is high in antioxidant activity, and also especially high in magnesium, a mineral that helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function. It has recently been “rediscovered” by researchers, who have found millets helpful in controlling diabetes and inflammation.
Millet can be made into pilafs or breakfast cereals, or added to breads, soups or stews. It can also be popped like corn and eaten as a snack.
Inherently gluten-free, but are frequently contaminated with wheat during growing or processing, it is important to look for brands that offer pure, uncontaminated oats.
Its sweet flavor makes them a favorite for breakfast cereals. Unique among the most widely-eaten grains, oats almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing. So if you see oats or oat flour on the label, relax: you’re virtually guaranteed to be getting whole grain.
Oats being high in beta-glucans and higher in protein and healthy fats, and lower in carbohydrates than most other whole grains helps manage weight and heart health.
They contain more than 20 unique polyphenols which have strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-itching activity.
Ask anyone the ways we can eat oats, and “as oatmeal porridge, for breakfast” – would be the likely answer, followed quickly by “oatmeal cookies, granola bars.” But that’s only the beginning.
It is known as an “ancient grain,” but to most scientific researchers, it’s a new kid on the block. Botanically, quinoa is related to beets, chard and spinach, and in fact the leaves can be eaten as well as the grains.
It’s one of the only plant foods that is a complete protein, offering all the essential amino acids in a healthy balance.
Quinoa grains have a usually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, since the germ makes up about 60% of the grain. (For comparison, wheat germ comprises less than 3% of a wheat kernel.)
Highest of all the whole grains in potassium, which helps control blood pressure. Cooks can choose from ivory, red, or black quinoa; from sprouted quinoa; from Arzu (a blend of buckwheat, quinoa, beans, and spices); or from quinoa flakes or flour, as a starting point for cooking.
Rice and Wild Rice
While they share similar names wild rice is not actually a kind of rice, and each grain has a full story of its own. Brown rice has much higher levels of many vitamins and minerals than white rice.
Brown rice is an excellent source of manganese (protects against free radicals). Just one cup of cooked brown rice provides 88% of your daily need for manganese, a mineral that helps us digest fats and get the most from the proteins and carbohydrates we eat.
It’s also a good source of selenium. Make a pilaf or serve it steaming hot.
Wild rice is actually a semi-aquatic grass. Because of the difficulty to cultivate, wild rice usually costs more than other grains and therefore often mixed with other grains (white rice and brown rice, especially) rather than eaten on its own.
Slightly higher in protein than most other whole grains, and is a good source of fiber, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, Vitamin B6, and niacin
Indian rice grass
Also known by brand name Montina was a staple of Native American diets. Pure Indian rice grass flour is super high in protein and fiber with 17 grams of protein and 24 grams of insoluble fiber in just 2/3 of a cup. It has a strong wheat-like taste and best combined with other flours in dark baked goods.
Job’s Tears (or Hato Mugi)
It is a grass native to Asia, and is often sold under the name Chinese Pearl Barley, even though it is gluten free and in no way related to barley. If you long for the barley meatiness, texture and flavor without the gluten, this is your pick. Health benefits range from cholesterol lowering to cancer prevention and treatment.
Sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop in the world, largely because of its natural drought tolerance and versatility as food, feed and fuel. Sorghum, which doesn’t have an inedible hull like some other grains, is commonly eaten with all its outer layers, thereby retaining the majority of its nutrients.
Some specialty sorghums are high in antioxidants, which are believed to help lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and some neurological diseases. Some researchers, in fact, believe that policosanols in sorghum have cholesterol-lowering potency comparable to that of statins.
Sorghum can be substituted for wheat flour in a variety of baked goods. Sorghum improves the texture of recipes and digests more slowly with a lower glycemic index, so it sticks with you a bit longer than some other flours or flour substitutes.
Teff is another very versatile grain that can grow where many other crops won’t thrive. It leads all the grains by a wide margin in its calcium content, 1cup cooked teff= 123 mg, about the same amount of calcium as in a half-cup of cooked spinach.
High in resistant starch, a type of dietary fiber that can benefit blood-sugar management, weight control, and colon health. It’s estimated that 20-40% of the carbohydrates in teff are resistant starches.
Since teff’s bran and germ make up a large percentage of the tiny grain, and it’s too small to process, Teff is always eaten in its whole form. A gluten-free grain with a mild flavor, teff is a healthy and versatile ingredient for many products like wraps, pancakes, breads, cereals and many other products.
Being gluten-free isn’t the only bragging right of these grains that makes them extremely useful to the celiac community and others who may be sensitive to gluten. But the fact that they are whole grains and provide many other nutritional benefits makes them indispensable to everyone.