Giving Gluten the Boot: 10 Great Gluten-Free Grains

Coeliac Disease & Non-coeliac Gluten-Intolerance

Gluten-free living has become much more widespread as diagnosis of coeliac disease becomes more common.

People who suffer from coeliac disease have an immune system that reacts abnormally to gluten, the protein found in wheat and related products. The villi that line the small bowel become inflamed and flattened causing small bowel damage, absorption problems and other gastrointestinal issues. Subsequent health consequences can result if the condition is not diagnosed and treated properly.

According to Coeliac Australia, coeliac disease affects approximately 1 in 100 Australians. But with over 75% currently undiagnosed, this means that approximately 160,000 Australians have coeliac disease that they are unaware of. While coeliac disease is estimated to affect about 1 percent of the population, experts contend that as many as 10% may have the related but poorly understood condition referred to as non-coeliac gluten intolerance (NCGI), or gluten sensitivity.

Many health professionals suggest that coeliac disease represents but one end of a broad spectrum of gluten intolerance ranging from minor to severe. Many people who struggle with ongoing digestive issues and gut pain have looked to a gluten-free diet as a possible solution. Growing awareness of gluten sensitivity has led some health care providers to suggest a gluten-challenge with the directive that if you feel better when you don’t eat it, that’s your answer. But a completely gluten free diet is not easy and the hidden sources of gluten are vast and sometimes surprising. For more information on coeliac, diagnosis and living gluten-free, visit Coeliac Australia and Gluten Free Aussie.

No Wheat Now What?

We know whole grains are good for us but where do you get these if wheat is off of the table? The good thing about Coeliac disease and gluten intolerance on the rise s the availability of gluten free foods has never been better. Here are a few healthy, widely available grains that you can use in place of wheat in your diet.

1. Millet:

With an impressive list of nutrients and a sweet nutty flavour, millet, one of the most digestible and least allergenic grains is a great choice.

2. Quinoa:

Although Quinoa is referred to as a grain, it is technically a seed from a vegetable related to Swiss chard, spinach and beets. Quinoa is pronounced keen-wha and it is easy to cook and use as you would most other grains.

3. Brown Rice:

Brown rice is a kind of whole, natural grain with a mild nutty flavor, and a chewier texture than white rice. Brown rice is a heartier, fiber-packed alternative and works in a variety of different cuisines and foods.

4. Cornmeal whole grain

Cornmeal is a great alternative to pasta if you are eating gluten-free. Make a batch of polenta with a little red sauce and you have a warm, comfort food meal that won’t irritate your gut. Cornmeal is a great source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamin B-6.

5. Buckwheat

Buckwheat is the seed of a plant related to rhubarb and not wheat as the name suggests. Buckwheat is gluten-free and replete with flavonoids and magnesium. Buckwheat is usually sold as groats (hulled whole buckwheat), kasha (toasted buckwheat groats), as dark or light milled flour.

6. Oats

Oats are gluten-free, however, because they are often grown near wheat, it is possible for them to be contaminated and not truly gluten-free. If you are coeliac, look for oats that are certified gluten-free meaning they are grown in conditions that prevent cross-contamination. Oats offer a number of health benefits and are a great substitute to wheat cereals for an easy, healthful breakfast.

7. Sorghum

Sorghum is often eaten as roasted immature grain, porridge, boiled grain, popped (much like popcorn), and leavened and unleavened breads. Sorghum is nutritionally superior to ordinary white flour.

8. Teff

Teff is high in calcium and an excellent source of vitamin C, both nutrients not commonly found in grains. An ancient North African cereal grass, Teff is a nutritional powerhouse. There are a few different varieties of Teff that vary in color from light to dark with a nutty, earthy taste. Teff grains can be used in cooking and baking in place of other types of small grains, nuts or seeds or as a handy thickener in soups, gravies and stews.

9. Amaranth

Amaranth offers more protein than any other gluten-free and the quantity, types and digestibility of proteins in amaranth make it an excellent plant source of high quality proteins. Amaranth easily absorbs water lending it great emulsifying properties, however, used alone in baking recipes, most become unpleasantly dense. The challenge and rewards of gluten-free cooking come from combining a variety of gluten free flours, starches and gums that work together to closely approximate the properties of gluten.

10. Popcorn

Popcorn’s crunchy hull is abundant in polyphenols, the antioxidants that may offer protection from coronary artery disease and some cancers. Popcorn offers fiber, B vitamins and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc and phosphorous. And of course, it is delicious.

If you need some direction on how to cook with these less conventional grains, the internet is of course, a great resource for techniques and recipes. Two highly recommended sites for people who like to cook and eat are the Gluten Free Girl and the Whole Grains Council.

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