Having to swear off of most grains in order to successfully maintain a gluten-free diet can mean missing out on a host of important vitamins and nutrients. Additionally, many of the gluten-free foods gracing grocery store shelves and restaurant menus have replaced flours with rice, corn, and potato alternatives. While these foods may be tasty, they aren't providing the nutrients needed to maintain a balanced diet - one of the essential components to effectively combatting celiac disease.
That's why we've put together a list of five, lesser-known grains that are packed with health benefits, super tasty, and easily substituted into your favorite recipes.
Don't let the name fool you - buckwheat is not made from wheat, and is 100% gluten-free. Buckwheat is high in fiber, zinc and magnesium, and studies have shown that it can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol! It can also be helpful in the management of diabetes. While buckwheat isn't even technically a grain (it's a seed closely related to rhubarb), it can serve as a great side dish, works as a good substitute in rice and couscous recipes.
A staple in India and Africa, millet is similar to the texture of couscous and is high in protein, copper, magnesium, and phosphorus. Millet is full of multiple health benefits: phosphorus is a key component to your body's energy currency, and magnesium has been shown to reduce headache severity and asthma. Millet is also high in insoluble fiber, which can reduce the likelihood of gallstones. You can even use millet to make healthy, delicious mashed potatoes.
I can't say enough good things about quinoa. Considered the "mother grain" of the Incas, quinoa is a complete protein (and actually a seed). It's high in iron, magnesium, manganese, protein, B-vitamins, and fiber. It's a proven aid for migraine sufferers. It can help lessen the risk of heart disease. It contains antioxidants that help protect your cells from damage. It's a superfood, folks. Quinoa works great as a healthy alternative to rice and is also yummy in salads. Try this delicious Mexican Quinoa Salad!
This grain is a powerhouse of nutrients, packed with protein, magnesium, riboflavin, niacin, iron, copper, and potassium. It also is full of dietary fiber and can contribute to overall digestive health. While sorghum can be prepared as a side and goes great in salads and soups, my favorite way to prepare sorghum is to pop it. A healthy alternative to popcorn, sorghum pops easily on the stovetop and with some added spices is a perfect addition to movie night!
4. Wild Rice
With its super high protein content, wild rice rounds up our list of healthy grains you should be eating. Wild rice has a lower caloric content than many other grains, with only 83 calories per half cup of cooked rice. It's also high in fiber! It's important to note that true wild rice is black - don't be fooled by mixes and blends, as those normally contain mostly white rice, which is not nearly as healthy. Wild rice is a terrific addition to soups, stews, salads, and pilaf. My personal favorite way to eat wild rice is by mixing it with spicy sausage and making stuffed peppers!
What are some of your favorite ways to cook up these healthy grain alternatives?