- Marie Belzile-Davidson, MS, RDN, LD
Delicious, nutritious, and gluten-free "grains"!
Before we dive into some tasty gluten-free "grains" and easy ways to prepare them, let's address the elephant in the room: is gluten "bad" for us? Should everyone avoid eating gluten?
As with nearly any nutrition topic, the short answer is, it depends! I know I know, not a great answer, right? Here's the deal when it comes to gluten - it can absolutely be part of a balanced and healthy diet but it can also cause some digestive and even autoimmune issues in certain individuals. Whether gluten fits into a healthy lifestyle for you truly depends on your unique situation.
At The Functional Kitchen, we're all about supporting, restoring, and optimizing your health. Sometimes that means eliminating certain foods in the short-term to help you feel your best in the long run. It can also mean avoiding certain foods long-term, based on your individual needs. Bottom line, if a food or nutrient (like gluten) is eliminated from your diet, there needs to be a valid, scientific reason behind it. So no, gluten is not everyone's enemy, but replacing it with gluten-free options may help certain people live their healthiest lives.
If you're interested in finding out how you can optimize your health through nutrition, complete our 1:1 Dietitian Nutrition Coaching Application today -Gretchen or Renee will reach out to schedule your complimentary call after you complete the coaching application.
Let's take a look at some gluten-free "grains" and mouth-watering ways to incorporate them into your meals!
Technically, quinoa isn't a grain, it's a seed! Nonetheless, it can be used in place of grains, like rice, in many recipes. It has become a common item on restaurant menus and there are countless recipes out there that can help you incorporate quinoa into any meal!
Compared to other plant foods, quinoa is high in protein. It's also a complete protein, which is quite uncommon for plants. This means it provides us with an adequate amount of the essential amino acids (the ones our bodies cannot make on their own). One cooked cup has about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
Quinoa is high in several minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc! On top of that, this seed provides us with vitamins such as folate (B9) and thiamin (B1). Try this Asian-Style Quinoa Salad from LivingPlate for an easy weekday lunch!
Surprisingly, buckwheat is not wheat and it's also not technically a grain. Buckwheat is a naturally gluten-free seed and like quinoa, it can replace many grains in common recipes.
Buckwheat is a good source of protein and fiber, providing about 6 grams and 4.5 grams, respectively, in one cup of cooked kernels. Buckwheat is also rich in flavonoids. Flavanoids are naturally occurring compounds found in many plants that have a beneficial impact on our health because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
This seed also provides us with several vitamins and minerals, including niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), and vitamin C. Buckwheat is commonly eaten at breakfast but you can really incorporate it at any mealtime. Give this Buckwheat Maple Breakfast Bowl recipe from LivingPlate a try!
Ok, so amaranth isn't a grain either - you guessed it - it's a seed!
I didn't put "grain" in the title of this blog to trick you - I promise! All the seeds we've talked about so far are comparable to grains in terms of nutritional composition. They're referred to as "pseudocereals" in the world of nutrition and are commonly called "grains" in everyday language. To keep things simple, you can just think of them as grains!
You'll notice there's a trend here with these seeds/grains/whatever you want to call them- amaranth is also a good source of protein and fiber, with one cup of cooked amaranth providing 9 grams and 5 grams, respectively.
Amaranth also has a higher fat content than a lot of other seeds and grains. Don't let that scare you away though - healthy fats are necessary for optimal health! Most of the fat is unsaturated and contains squalene. This compound has anti-oxidative properties and helps us maintain healthy cell membranes.
Amaranth isn't as commonly used as quinoa or buckwheat but it's easily prepared and can replace ingredients like rice or even couscous in recipes. We've provided you with easy prep instructions and a recipe that can be made with amaranth instead of quinoa below, courtesy of LivingPlate!
This probably won't come as a surprise to you but yet again, this is a seed, not a grain.
Like the previous seeds, millet is a good source of protein when it comes to plant foods. You'll get about 6 grams per 1 cup, cooked. Millet is a bit lower in fiber though, only providing about 2 grams for every 1 cup, cooked. Millet also provides us with minerals, including iron and zinc, and vitamins like folate (B9).
Never prepared millet before? No worries, we've provided you with a simple guide from LivingPlate that will make it easy for you to cook this seed and add it to your favorite dish! You can easily use millet to replace barley (a gluten-containing grain) in the Arugula Barley Salad recipe below.
Interested in more fun recipes like the ones included here? Pop on over to our meal planning page for a free trial of the Living Plate meal plan that fits your needs!
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