A Guide to Gluten-Free Grains

Ever heard of amaranth porridge? Injera? Buckwheat pancakes?

While gluten-free grains such as rice and corn are widely recognized and utilized by many, there are many others that deserve recognition for their versatility. There are also others (ehem, oats) that are not always safe to consume if you have celiac disease or a severe gluten intolerance.

For those who are trying to avoid gluten, below are a few grains that can make great substitutes in many of the classic recipes you know and love.

Encompassing a genus of about 25 different species, this grain is cultivated in warm areas (such as Australia and parts of Africa) and has high antioxidant levels compared to many other grains. It’s also a great source of fiber, magnesium, Vitamin B3 and more.

When it comes to cooking with sorghum, it's often used in lieu of grains such as couscous or ground into a multi-purpose flour. It also can be popped and eaten as a snack, much like corn. Consider trying it slow cooked with chicken or as a tasty addition to a tahini salad.

A staple in many East African cuisines, teff is a small, protein-rich grain that can either be ground into a flour or used in porridges and stews. In addition to its high calcium content, teff is also rich in potassium, magnesium, zinc and selenium.

Aside from being used as a flour alternative, teff can be steamed, boiled, baked and more, whether it be for risotto or vegetable stew. It’s also the primary ingredient in injera – a fermented flatbread that can be found in many Ethiopian dishes.

Considered a “superfood” by many, this nutrient-dense grain is a great source of protein, fiber and other essential vitamins. Some touted benefits of buckwheat include improved heart health, better digestion and reduced blood sugar.

As a pseudocereal and complex carbohydrate, buckwheat can be used as either a replacement for traditional breakfast cereals or as a substitute in many baked goods. In addition to waffles and pancakes, buckwheat also works well in stir fry, salads and many noodle dishes.

Closely resembling sorghum, millet is a grass-grown seed that is indigenous to East Asia and parts of Africa. This starchy, protein-rich grain is also high in fiber, manganese and other antioxidants, helping to fend off disease-causing free radicals and manage cholesterol.

Millet can be used in many different ways, whether it be sauteed as a side dish or hulled for a creamier texture. Breakfast porridge, stew and grain bowls are just a few examples of how you can prepare this versatile grain.

Though it’s only starting to make its rounds in the western wellness world, amaranth is an ancient grain that has been a dietary staple in certain cultures for thousands of years. Originating in Mayan and Aztec civilizations, amaranth is commonly grown in Mexico, India and parts of South Asia.

Like buckwheat, amaranth is also a pseudocereal, meaning the grain can be ground into flour as well as used in other dishes. Amaranth flour is known for its earthy, nutty flavor and is often used in combination with other gluten-free flours to create a multi-purpose blend. Muffins, cookies, hot cereals and salads are just a few recipes that can be developed with amaranth.

One of the most well-known of the gluten-free grains, quinoa is used in may dishes as an alternative to rice, pasta, couscous and more. Most recognized for its high protein and fiber content, quinoa is full of iron, magnesium, vitamin B and more.

Unlike wheat, oats and rice, quinoa grows on a flowering plant that is closely related to those that grow spinach and amaranth. From summer salads to stuffed peppers, quinoa has a plethora of uses that make it such a popular choice for those with gluten sensitivities.

While cooking gluten-free meals isn’t always easy, it’s much easier when you know all of your options. With the abundance of gluten-free grains available, it’s easy to get creative and come up with recipes that not only taste good, but also ease your gut.

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