Cooking for a son with Celiac Disease has probably been one of the most challenging things I’ve had to learn to do. To be honest, I mostly stick to foods that are “naturally gluten free” rather than try and substitute gluten-free ingredients. But lately my daughter-in-law Kaitlyn has been trying to learn more about gluten-free grains and is sharing her knowledge with all of us today!
Kaitlyn writes….. Just because you have Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance doesn’t mean you have to have a completely grain free diet! There are actually quite a few gluten-free grain options out there. Some of them are things everyone knows about like corn, oats and rice and others are not so common like amaranth, millet and teff. As I’ve gotten more interested in health and nutrition I’ve seen some of the lesser known grains pop-up in recipes and I was sick of not knowing what they were, where to find them or how to cook with them! So I decided to end my ignorance and do a bit of research.
A quick disclaimer before we get into the bulk of the post…
I am aware that grains are a bit of a controversial topic right now. I am not a nutritionist or a scientist so I’m not going to get into whether or not grains are causing Alzheimer’s or if they’re slowly killing us. I have read articles from people much smarter than myself that say grains are awful for us and others that fill their diets with them. So all I will say is that everyone needs to do what they feel is best. I personally have experimented with a strict Paleo diet in the past and simply did not feel my best eating a large amount of meat and no grains. But I know others who feel amazing on a Paleo diet! I like to stick to real foods and for me, grains in their whole and best form are a real food and part of my balanced diet.
Now on to my list. This is probably not a complete list of every gluten free grain in existence – it’s simply the most common ones I could find. I’m also not including things like almond flour or coconut flour that are common in gluten free cooking because they aren’t grains.
Why It’s Good For You: Amaranth is high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. It is the only grain that contains Vitamin C and has more protein than most other grains.
Where to Buy It: I found amaranth in the bulk section of my local Whole Foods in Park City, Utah. We have a rather small store so I’m assuming if they carry it you’ll be able to find it in most speciality grocery stores. Get it on Amazon here.
What to Do With It: You can pop it like corn, turn it into a sweet treat by adding sugar and honey, or add it to breakfast cereal. It remains crunchy on the outside while soft on the inside when cooked. I’ve read that the consistency is similar to oatmeal. You can also add it to salads or soups or as a coating on meat for an added crunch. If you’re going to cook amaranth on it’s own you’ll want about a 6 to 1 ratio of water to amaranth.
Why It’s Good For You: Buckwheat is high in zinc, copper, manganese, potassium, protein and soluble fiber.
Where to Buy It: I also found buckwheat at Whole Foods but if you have a well stocked local grocery store you pay be able to find it there. Get it on Amazon here.
What to Do With It: Buckwheat is very versatile but I’ve read that when eaten alone the flavor is quite strong. It can be made into a flour and is delicious in pancakes, bread and noodles. If you like the strong flavor of buckwheat you can turn it into a porridge, salad or casserole.
Why It’s Good For You: Corn has 10 times more vitamin A than other grains. It’s also high in lutein and zeaxanthin which are good for eye health.
Where to Buy It: I know that many of you try to avoid GMO’s as much as possible and most commercial corn is a GMO. But you can find non-GMO corn. So just check your labels when buying this grain. I’ve seen non-GMO corn products at my local grocery store and of course at speciality and health food stores. Get it on Amazon here.
What to Do With It: Grilled corn on the cob is delicious in the summer time. It’s a major staple in my families’ dinners in warm months. I’m also a huge popcorn eater! Stay away from store bought microwave popcorn full of questionable ingredients and pop whole kernels in a brown bag in the microwave or with coconut oil on the stove. I also lived in the South for a while and developed a serious love for grits! But make sure to get the good yellow grits and not the icky instant grits.
Why It’s Good For You: Millet is high in antioxidants and magnesium. It’s also been shown to help control diabetes and inflammation.
Where to Buy It: I found millet in the bulk section of my local grocery store so it should be relatively easy for most people to buy. Get it on Amazon here.
What to Do With It: Millet is super versatile with a great nutty flavor. It’s great on it’s own cooked in basically the same way you would make rice. It can also be cooked and made into a pilaf or added to soups. It can be made into a cereal (similar to oatmeal) or added to breads and other baked goods. It can also be popped like corn.
Why It’s Good For You: Eating oats helps lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Oats are high in beta-glucans, a kind of starch that stimulates the immune system and inhibits tumors. Oats are higher in protein and healthy fats, and lower in carbohydrates than most other whole grains.
Where to Buy It: Oats are naturally gluten-free, but may be contaminated with gluten during growing and processing. Look for oats certified gluten-free if you are sensitive to gluten. Find it on Amazon here.
What to Do With It: If you look beyond breakfast, there are many ways you can cook with oats. They make a great crispy coating; they extend meatloaf and burgers, while enhancing their juiciness; or they can make a savory side dish.
Why It’s Good For You: “While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom.” -Philip White. It’s one of the only plant foods that’s a complete protein, offering all the essential amino acids in a healthy balance. Quinoa is also highest of all the whole grains in potassium, which helps control blood pressure.
Where to Buy It: Quinoa has become so popular that you can find it at most, if not all, grocery stores. I’ve found the best deal to be at Costco. Find it on Amazon here.
What to Do With It: Quinoa is versatile, delicious, quick and easy to cook. It reminds me a lot of couscous or rice and works great when mixed with a huge variety of flavors from sweet to savory. It’s also delicious when cooked on it’s own in a little bit of chicken broth and eaten as a side dish.
Why It’s Good For You: While all rice can be part of a healthy diet you’ll get a much bigger nutritional bang for your buck with brown rice. It’s a great source of manganese and selenium. It can also help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of getting diabetes. You can also get brown rice flour, a great flour alternative, which I use in my gluten-free bread recipe.
Where to Buy It: Any grocery store. Find it on Amazon here.
What to Do With It: Brown rice is one of my favorite side dishes all on it’s own because it’s so filling. One of my favorite quick dinners is a rice bowl with leftover veggies, meat and either salsa or teriyaki sauce.
Why It’s Good For You: Sorghum is high in antioxidants, which are believed to help lower cancer risk, diabetes, and heart-disease. It also contains policosanols, compounds that may positively affect cardiac health.
Where to Buy It: This was one I wasn’t able to find in any of my local stores, although an employee at my small Whole Foods told me they used to stock it near the rice. If you live near a larger Whole Foods or other health food store you may be able to find it. Get it on Amazon here.
What to Do With It: You can substitute sorghum flour in recipes that use pretty small amounts of wheat flour, like brownies or pancakes. It can also be cooked much like quinoa or rice and used in salads and casseroles.
Why It’s Good For You: Teff leads all the grains in its calcium content, with a cup of cooked teff offering 123 mg, about the same amount of calcium as in a half-cup of cooked spinach. It also aids in bone health and digestion.
Where to Buy It: This was another one I couldn’t find in my local stores but was told my Whole Foods used to have it on the rice aisle. Again, if you live near a larger Whole Foods than I do you will probably be able to find it there. Get it on Amazon here.
What to Do With It: Teff is frequently used as an ingredient in pancakes, snacks, breads, cereals and many other products, especially those created for the gluten-free market.
I learned a ton about grains as I did research for this post. I’m excited to try some of the ones I have never cooked with before! Do you have any favorite recipes that utilize gluten free grains? The Whole Grains Council was a fantastic source for this post.