Feature: Food & Living

Gluten-Free Whole Grains - Moving Beyond Rice

Author: Molly Robson
Published: October 05, 2011 at 9:17 am

Let's say you've just started your gluten-free diet. Maybe you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, a Candida imbalance, or are on a general elimination diet. Or perhaps you've just noticed a slight gluten intolerance and want to cut back. It's possible you're curious what all the fuss is and want to experiment with your own gluten intake.

It's all too easy to reach for the rice - and I'm not just talking Uncle Ben's here. Rice cakes, rice bread, rice crackers - they're a convenient and safe option for anyone avoiding gluten. While brown rice and wild rice certainly offer some nutritional benefit (mostly in the form of fiber), it remains a relatively bland and mineral-deficient food source.

However, there are several other gluten-free whole grains available that often go unnoticed or avoided, simply because they aren't as widely available or known about. These grains can be bought at any health food store, online, or at an increasing number of grocery stores. The best way, I've found, is to buy it from a bulk bin. Stock up with a bag that you can transfer to a glass jar at home. All of these grains last for months in this fashion. Best of all, this means you'll always have an option for any meal of the day that provides extra protein and micronutrients.


First on the list is quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"), a whole grain that's getting a lot of love lately and for good reason. This South American seed can be bought in its white or red variety and is cooked in a similar way to rice: simmered in twice its weight of water until fully absorbed and fluffy. It has a slight crunch, even when cooked, and a subtle nutty flavor that lends itself well to an oatmeal alternative at breakfast. I like to make warm salads with quinoa, in a similar fashion to couscous, with lots of chopped vegetables, maybe some roasted squash, a few toasted seeds, and a drizzle of olive oil. In the summer, cooled down, it works great in the same way, as a salad mixed with a cup or two of freshly chopped herbs and soft avocado pieces.

Nutritionally, quinoa is king. It stands alone as a complete protein. This means that it can and should be a staple in any vegetarian or vegan diet, especially if you are avoiding gluten. Breakfast can be tricky when you're trying to find protein sources that don't involve eggs, tofu, or dairy, so a bowl of quinoa is a wonderful option. It also contains a healthy amount of minerals, such as magnesium, iron, and copper, and B vitamins, such as folate.

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Article Author: Molly Robson

Molly Robson is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Educator based in Newton, MA, who has written regularly at her blog, The Particular Kitchen, for the last 3 years. Navigating her way through a restricted diet, she decided to learn how to cook properly …

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