Brown rice, white rice, corn… Does the list of gluten-free grains in your diet stop there?
You might be surprised at all of the nutritious grains you’re missing out on. While rice and corn are the basics that most celiacs start out with, few gluten-free folks are aware of the more exotic and nutritious gluten-free grain options that are available to us.
The following ancient grains are nutritious staples in many parts of the world but less well-known in the Western world. Although these grains are not as common in the American diet, they are all available for purchase on the internet or through health food markets.
One of them is even easy to grow as a decorative and edible plant in your own garden…
- Amaranth: Amaranth is a stunningly gorgeous plant with vivid green or reddish leaves, which are edible and can be prepared similarly to spinach. It also has beautiful red or fuchsia clusters of seed-containing flowerlike foliage. Renowned worldwide for being easy to grow and harvest, amaranth originates in South America but grows on nearly every continent. You can even find it in American gardens as a decorative crop. The tiny little off-white seed within the plant is the edible grain that we call the seed or grain. It is considered a “pseudo-grain” (a seed that looks and can be prepared like a grain but is actually the seed of a non-cereal grass plant). It is delicious and nutty, and tremendously nutritious.Amaranth can be puffed like popcorn to make a gluten-free breakfast cereal or used as a crunchy topping for other dishes. It can be boiled as you would boil quinoa or rice to make a hot cereal or a starchy side dish. When ground into flavorful flour, it can be used in many baking applications. It can also be sprouted.Not only is the grain/seed packed with high-quality protein, but it also lacks some of the compounds that help limit nutrient absorption in other plants (nitrates, oxalates, saponins, etc). It is particularly high in the amino acid lysine. A hundred grams of uncooked amaranth has 14g of protein, 7g of fiber and 42% of the RDA for iron.
- Sorghum: Known most widely as the source of thick, sweet sorghum syrup and a base for gluten-free beers, sorghum grain is the round, light-colored, deliciously edible seed of the sorghum grass. It grows mostly in tropical and subtropical climates, and in parts of Africa it is used in a similar way to couscous.It can be boiled, steamed or popped. Sorghum grain can be ground into very fine, light-colored flour that is very mild-tasting. This makes it a great whole grain substitution for other flours that offers the whole grain nutritional goodness without a typical whole grain flavor. It is frequently used in combination with, or to replace, white or brown rice flours. It works well in delicate baking applications as well as breads and pancakes.The syrup of sorghum can be used as a natural sweetener or in place of maple or pancake syrup. In 100 grams of uncooked sorghum, there is 11g of protein, 6g of fiber and 24% of the RDA for iron.
- Millet: Playing a huge role in the diet of many in Africa and Asia, millet has been slowly gaining attention in the United States for its ability to work as a gluten-free substitute for couscous. Its flour is also mild, high in protein and perfect for baking.Millet has many culinary uses. Sweet and savory millet porridges are consumed from Germany to China. In Osaka, Japan, millet is puffed and mixed with sugar syrup to make a candied millet treat called awaokoshi. In parts of India it is included in the dough for the flat bread known as roti. Millet’s nutrients are less easily absorbed than some other gluten-free grains but it is considered an excellent source of fiber. In 100 grams of uncooked millet, there is 11g of protein, 7g fiber and 17% of the RDA for iron. It also has the highest calcium content of all grains.
Looking for more info on amaranth and other gluten-free grains? Check out this article that covers a few more!