Friday, February 17, 2012

9 Gluten-Free Grains

Don't feel like you have to give up grains because you're taking a break from gluten. There are plenty of gluten-free grains that are just as versatile as wheat.

Quinoa salad
Quinoa salad is one way to serve gluten-free quinoa.

Is your gut unhappy? Maybe you’ve been told to eliminate gluten from your diet, or perhaps you’ve noticed that you just don’t feel very well after eating a slice of bread or plate of pasta.

While gluten is found in many common foods, living without it doesn’t require ditching grains altogether. Korrin Fotheringham, along with other Master of Science in Nutrition students at Bastyr University, share a list of nine gluten-free grains and their health benefits below.

“All of these grains can be cooked like quinoa or rice — simmered in a pot with water,” Fotheringham says. “I usually like to toast the grains first, to bring out the flavor and aroma of the grain, and then just add the appropriate amount of water.”

To prepare all grains below, bring grain and liquid to a boil (be sure to include salt), reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for the directed duration. To check for doneness, tip the pot and make sure all of the water has been absorbed. Remove the lid and let grain rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Amaranth

Originally from South America, amaranth is high in fiber and vitamin C. “This grain is really great for those recovering from celiac disease,” says Fotheringham. “It can be really restorative to your gut and your digestive system.”

To prepare as part of a whole-grain breakfast, use 1/3 cup amaranth and ¾ cup gluten-free steel-cut oats with 4 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt. Simmer on the stovetop for 30 minutes.

Buckwheat/Kasha

Buckwheat is a common staple in Russian diets and is high in calcium and B vitamins. What is kasha? “Kasha is buckwheat,” says Fotheringham, “except it is de-hulled and roasted, so it has a more caramel color to it and a nutty flavor.”

To prepare, sauté 1 cup kasha or toasted buckwheat groats in a tablespoon of butter or olive oil. Add two cups of boiling water and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes.

Corn/Polenta

While some corn preparations can be high in starch, corn also high in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin A. “Corn is really high in vitamin A, which is great for cell turnover,” Fotheringham explains. “So if you’ve had celiac disease in the past, you’re trying to rebuild those cells and vitamin A is going to be restorative in building [them] back up again.”

It should be noted that most corn sold in the U.S. is genetically modified. If you prefer to avoid genetically modified corn, stick to organic options.

Corn can be purchased or prepared in many forms, including polenta, which is produced by grinding dry corn kernels. Fotheringham suggests: “I like to purchase a roll of pre-made polenta, slice it and then make little mini-pizzas out of it. It’s essentially a gluten-free pizza crust.”

Millet

Millet is an often-overlooked grain, but it is easily digested, relatively inexpensive and packs in high amounts of potassium and B vitamins. Millet can also help regulate your body’s pH. “A lot of grains are acid-forming,” says Fotheringham, “so when you digest them they make your body more acidic, but this grain is actually more alkaline.”

To prepare as a dinner grain, use 2½ cups water or broth per 1 cup of millet. Simmer on the stovetop for 20 to 30 minutes. 

To prepare as a porridge or pudding, use 4 cups liquid (water and fruit juice) per 1 cup of millet. Simmer on the stovetop for 45 to 60 minutes.

Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”) comes in many colors and is rising in popularity. High in iron and protein, quinoa is a favorite for those whose diets include little or no animal products.

“It’s really high in potassium as well,” Fotheringham adds, “so those with high blood pressure find quinoa helpful to decrease that.”

To prepare, use 1¾ cups water or broth per 1 cup of quinoa. Simmer on the stovetop for 10 minutes.

Oats

A traditional breakfast food, oats contain loads of fiber and protein. Oats are inherently gluten-free, but can frequently be tainted with gluten through cross-contamination, so seek out oats labeled “gluten-free.” Oat varieties include steel-cut, rolled, old-fashioned, quick-cooking and whole-groat oats. “These are essentially different processing methods,” says Fotheringham, “but they’re all forms of the whole grains. The whole groat is the unprocessed, whole grain.”

To prepare regular or thick rolled oats, use 2 to 2½ cups water per 1 cup of oats. Simmer on the stovetop for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on preference.

Rice

Rice, enjoyed for centuries around the globe, is high in thiamin and gluten-free. If you’re working to keep your blood sugar in check, look for longer-grain varieties such as basmati, as your body digests them more slowly. To increase your fiber intake, look for whole grain (brown) rice, but it may not be everyone’s favorite.

“White rice is fortified with B vitamins,” Fotheringham explains, “so I would recommend it if you have a picky eater at home who may not be getting their B vitamins because they’re eating gluten-free products that are not fortified.” Have fun exploring different varieties and colors found at your grocery store and follow package directions for specific varieties.

To prepare basic white rice, use 1¾ cups water or broth per 1 cup of rice. Simmer on the stovetop for 20 minutes.

To prepare short-grain brown rice, use 2-2½ cups water or broth per 1 cup of rice. Simmer on the stovetop for 45-60 minutes.

Sorghum

Sorghum is a less well-known gluten-free grain, but it is found in many gluten-free items. “Not many people have heard about this one,” says Fotheringham. “It’s hard to find in whole-grain form, but the flour is really wonderful for breading things and it’s a common substitute in gluten-free products and baking.” Sorghum is another gut-friendly grain that is easy to digest.

Teff

Teff can typically be found in Ethiopian cuisine and is high in protein, fiber and other nutrients. In fact, as Fotheringham explains, “Some consider it to be a supergrain because it’s five times richer in calcium, iron and potassium than any other grain, which is pretty amazing.”

Try substituting part teff flour in baked goods.

For learn more, watch the following Living Naturally talk “Going Gluten-Free,” featuring Shaekira Collins, Courtney Fasano, Korrin Fotheringham, Luz Padua-Perez, Kelly Morrow, MS, RD, CD, Angela Muehling and Lisa Schmidt.

If you suspect a food allergy in yourself or a family member, visit the nutrition team at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University, to pinpoint your issue and discover wholesome and delicious food alternatives. Schedule an appointment by calling (206) 834-4100.

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