Food for Thought:
If you must avoid gluten because of Celiac disease or if you’re interested in adding different whole grains to your diet, experiment with these gluten-free options. In their nutritional profiles, these ancient grains surpass the staples of wheat, corn, oats and rice in the American diet.
Amaranth comes from Central and South America and while technically a seed is used like a grain. Light tan in color, this tiny seed has a nutty flavor and unique texture. High in protein, with 25% more fiber than whole wheat, amaranth contains high amounts of iron, magnesium, zinc and folate.
Cooked amaranth can be used as a hot cereal or added to pilafs and soups. The flour can also be added to baked goods for a nutrition boost. The seeds can be popped like popcorn in a dry skillet and coated with honey for a sweet treat.
Buckwheat is a relative of rhubarb and not related to wheat at all. Actually a fruit seed, buckwheat is a good source of protein, containing all eight essential amino acids, as well as magnesium, fiber, calcium and iron. Buckwheat also contains the entire range of B-complex vitamins. When toasted, this triangular-shaped grain is called kasha.
The cooked grains (often called groats) make a hearty breakfast cereal. In Slavic countries, buckwheat is used in soups and savory dishes. The flour can be used to make buckwheat pancakes or crepes. Look for Japanese soba noodles, which are made from 100% buckwheat flour.
Millet contains more protein than wheat, corn and rice. Yellow in color, the small grains are also a good source of fiber, iron and B vitamins. Widely used in Africa, China and India, millet is a versatile grain with a mild flavor.
When cooked, the grain can be used as a pilaf or rice substitute. Increasing the water and cooking the grain longer create a creamy breakfast porridge. Millet flour lends a light flavor to baked goods.
Quinoa, like amaranth, is native to South America and technically a seed; it is related to the beet, chard and spinach plants. Considered a “super grain,” quinoa contains all eight essential amino acids and has a protein profile similar to milk. Quinoa also has more calcium, iron and magnesium than whole wheat. The small round grain is available in white, red and black varieties.
Quinoa cooks faster and has a lighter texture than most grains. Use in pilafs, soups or warm or cold salads, or as a gluten-free substitute for bulgur wheat and couscous. Quinoa pasta, often mixed with corn or rice flour, is also readily available.
Teff is the world’s smallest grain and is native to Africa. Ethiopians use teff to make injera, a flat spongy bread. Key nutrients include protein, fiber, calcium, iron and vitamin B1, zinc and copper.
Because of its size, teff works well as a breakfast cereal or mixed with other grains for side dishes. The mild nutty and slightly sweet flavor makes it a good choice for a variety of baked goods.