30 May 2012
Like many first diagnosed with Celiac disease, four years ago I struggled to figure out which grains I could eat. In my last semester of graduate school I learned that I was developing Celiac disease myself. While I had learned about the disease in school (after all, I was just a few short months from obtaining my RD status), I didn’t fully understand what living a gluten free lifestyle meant until I was making it my lifestyle.
Turns out I’ve benefitted immensely from living gluten free. Not only am I not damaging my Celia anymore but the grains I eat now are whole grain, less processed, and real food. Before needing to eliminate gluten from my diet, it was so easy to grab food that wasn’t as wholesome for my body.
Today I want to share with you information about four of my favorite grains and pseudo-grains. If you start incorporating these foods into your diet I’m confident you’ll enjoy these real foods too.
Quinoa: While associated as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed. It can be found in your grocer’s bulk section in both red and white forms or may be found pre-packaged, which usually eliminates the need for pre-rinsing prior to cooking. Quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse containing 18% protein content and all the essential amino acids. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it a great side dish or breakfast food.
Brown Rice: This is a simple whole grain option. While brown and white rice are similar in calories and carbohydrates, brown rice ultimately has a superior nutritional content. The process of producing white rice strips the grain of nutrients that later has to be enriched. The process of producing brown rice keeps those nutrients intact and is naturally contains a higher amount of magnesium and fiber than its white rice counterpart.
Amaranth: Like quinoa, amaranth is a pseudo-grain and is actually a seed. Compared to common grains, amaranth is unusually rich in the essential amino acid lysine and is a good source of protein. Amaranth is a good source of fiber and also provides good sources of the dietary minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. In other parts of the world the amaranth leaves, roots, and stems are eaten as well – not just the “grain” part of the plant.
Certified Gluten Free Oats: Oats are naturally gluten free but are often cross-contaminated due to processing. Therefore, it is essential to purchase certified gluten free oats to ensure you do not experience any ill effects. Oats are high in soluble fiber, which results in slower digestion and provides an extended feeling of fullness compared to other grains. Depending on the oat kernel, the protein content oats can range from 12 to 24%. Oats are widely used in both cold and warm breakfast options, can be found as the main ingredient in granola and baked goods, and are commonly used as livestock feed.
Additionally, quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, and oats can all be ground into flour, making them perfect gluten free baking options. I definitely love baking and these flours have made doing so much easier! Recently, I’ve also started using chickpea flour in more gluten free recipes, as well as eating millet, another grain-like option, as a side with dinner.
What might seem daunting at first, it is definitely possible to eat real ingredients while gluten free. I hope that the insight into my favorite grains might help you explore something new!
Katie Heddleston is the author and Registered Dietitian behind the blog Healthy Heddleston. She currently resides in Germantown, Maryland with her husband and new baby boy. Feel free to contact her at healthyheddleston at gmail dot com.