Many people choose to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat. There are a number of reasons that may prompt individuals to avoid gluten in their diet, including celiac disease (an autoimmune disease in which gluten causes white blood cells to attack the lining of the gut), wheat allergy, gluten intolerance or sensitivity, or other digestive State of health.
Fortunately, following a gluten-free diet doesn’t mean you have to avoid all grains. There are many grains that are naturally gluten-free. These grains include oats, quinoa, millet, amaranth, and corn.
This article will discuss which grains are gluten-free, where to buy them, and the best way to enjoy them.
What are gluten-free grains?
Gluten is a protein that can be found in wheat products and some other grains such as rye and barley.
While some grains contain gluten, there are many naturally gluten-free grains that can be enjoyed by those following a gluten-free diet. These include oats, quinoa, brown rice, corn, millet, amaranth, teff, and buckwheat.
Most of these gluten-free grains are available at grocery stores. Some less popular cereals may need to be purchased from a health food or specialty store or ordered online.
Avoid cross contamination
If gluten-free grains are grown, milled, or manufactured near grains that may contain gluten, there is a risk of cross-contamination during processing.
If you have a severe allergy, it’s important to look for gluten-free products that are made in a gluten-free facility that’s been third-party tested and certified. It’s best to avoid buying gluten-free grains from bulk bins, as open accessibility also increases the risk of cross-contamination.
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gluten free grains
There are many naturally gluten-free grains that are safe to eat for those on a gluten-free diet. These grains include:
Oatmeal is a gluten-free grain prized for its high soluble fiber content beta-glucan. This fiber helps promote satiety and slows the release of blood sugar into the bloodstream.
The beta-glucans in oats have also been shown to help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. In addition to fiber, oats are a good source of nutrients and minerals, including:
There are many forms of oats to choose from, depending on how they are processed. Types include quick or instant, rolled or old fashioned, steel cut, oat groats and oat bran. There’s even oat flour for baked goods.
Enjoy a warm bowl of oatmeal topped with honey and berries for breakfast to make homemade granola or muesli, or whip up delicious oats with chicken stock and cheese and enjoy like risotto. Oatmeal is also delicious, stirred into batter for bread and cookies.
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Technically, quinoa is a seed, an edible grain-like food that comes in a variety of colors, including black, red, white, and yellow.
Quinoa is a great dietary supplement because it’s nutritious and contains a lot of antioxidants. Quinoa is also one of the few plant foods that is complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own.
Quinoa contains many vitamins and minerals, such as:
- B vitamins
- Vitamin E
Quinoa, with its nutty flavor and light and fluffy texture, can be eaten as a breakfast porridge, as a side dish instead of rice, added to salads, and even used to enhance soups and stews.
For best flavor, be sure to rinse the quinoa well before cooking. The outside of the seeds naturally develops a bitter chemical coating that acts as a pesticide as the plant grows, but this chemical should be removed before eating.
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Rice is a starchy grain that is a staple in diets around the world. There are more than 40,000 varieties of rice worldwide, and all types are gluten-free. This includes white, brown, red, black and wild rice.
White rice is milled and polished to remove the husk, but whole grain varieties like brown rice and wild rice leave the husk intact. Whole grain rice is a more nutritious option because it provides fiber and other nutrients, including:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B6
Depending on the length and width of the grain and the amount of starch in each grain, rice can be light and fluffy, chewy, nutty, or sticky. Try various varieties and find your favorite.
Rice is traditionally used to make risotto, paella, and jambalaya, and as a base for stir-fries. It’s also delicious in salads, added to soups, and served with meat or vegetables. Rice flour is often used in gluten-free baking mixes.
Corn is a naturally gluten-free grain and a good source of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants such as carotenoids. It is consumed in many forms in many cultures.
Gluten-free derivatives of corn include:
- stick noodles
- corn flour
- corn starch
Corn contains the following nutrients:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- folic acid
Try corn kernels for succotash or other side dishes, and cornmeal for gluten-free cornbread or polenta. Tortillas can be used in tacos or quesadillas, and cornstarch can be used to thicken soups and pies.
Corn can also be eaten as a fun snack like popcorn. Popcorn is naturally gluten-free, but some flavorings and additives used in popcorn at movie theaters or fairs may not. Always check for gluten-containing ingredients, or make your own popcorn at home.
Xiaomi has only recently become popular in the US. It is a naturally gluten-free grain that has been grown in India and Africa for hundreds of years.
Millet is nutritious, providing 6 grams of protein and nearly 3 grams of fiber per 1 cup of cooked millet. It also contains:
This sweet, nutty grain can be used in place of rice or even made into flour for baking. It can also be made into porridge or in place of cornmeal in polenta.
Amaranth is a high-protein, gluten-free grain native to Peru. Cultivated for thousands of years, it is an important ingredient in breakfast porridge in many parts of the world, including India, Mexico and Nepal.
Amaranth is also naturally high in:
Amaranth can be roasted to bring out the nutty flavor in cooking. This versatile grain can be used in side dishes and salads. It can also be served as a hot breakfast dish with fruit and maple syrup.
Teff is the smallest grain in the world and comes from Ethiopia. It’s a staple in much of East Africa, but is relatively new in the United States.
This ancient grain is gluten-free and has a low glycemic index, which means it doesn’t raise blood sugar. Each cup contains about 20 grams of protein along with other nutrients, including:
Teff can be ground into flour and is usually made into a Injera. If ordering injera at a restaurant, be sure to check if Teff is mixed with flours like wheat or barley that contain gluten.
Teff can also be used in porridge or risotto.
Despite wheat in the name, buckwheat is naturally gluten-free. It comes from the rhubarb family.
Buckwheat is a good source of fiber and a nutrient-dense whole grain that also contains:
- B vitamins
Buckwheat can taste nutty, with a slight earthy or bitter taste.toasted buckwheat is called Buckwheat Porridge Serve as a breakfast cereal or for a crunchy addition to salads. Cooked buckwheat can be substituted for rice. It can also be ground into flour for use in pancakes, crepes, and baked goods.
Are gluten-free foods really more fattening?
There are many grains that are naturally gluten-free. These grains are suitable for those following a gluten-free diet. This includes people with celiac disease, people with gluten intolerance, or people who follow a gluten-free diet for other health reasons.
There is still a risk of gluten-free grains coming into contact with gluten-containing items during milling and packaging. To make sure you’re not exposed to gluten, it’s best to avoid buying gluten-free grains from bulk bins and instead look for packages that are labeled gluten-free. Ideally, buy third-party certified gluten-free options.
Eating a gluten-free diet doesn’t mean you have to miss out on grains. There are many naturally gluten-free grains that can be used in salads, soups, stews, breakfast cereals and even pancakes. Always check the label to make sure the product is certified gluten-free.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do gluten-free grains still contain gluten?
There are many gluten-free grains. However, these grains may come into contact with gluten-containing grains or other products during the growing, milling or manufacturing process. For this reason, it’s important to buy foods that are labeled gluten-free, preferably ones that are certified gluten-free.
Do all grains contain gluten?
No, there are many gluten-free grains that are safe for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. These include quinoa, millet, and amaranth, among others.
What is the difference between gluten-free and grain-free?
Gluten-free means avoiding foods that contain the protein gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley). People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance cannot eat these foods. Not all grains contain gluten, and people with these conditions can safely consume certain grain products.
A grain-free diet does not include all grains, whether or not they contain gluten. This includes wheat, rice, cornmeal, and barley, among others.