Food: Enjoy whole grains, even on a gluten-free diet

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 6, 2024

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Metro Creative Connection

People adhere to gluten-free diets for various reasons. Individuals with Celiac disease have to avoid gluten because they have a form of gluten intolerance that results in severe gastrointestinal distress if they consume it. However, others avoid gluten, which is a protein found in all kinds of wheat, including barley, rye, triticale, rye, and wheat hybrids, because they’re simply allergic to wheat. Some have intolerances that are not exactly allergies or Celiac disease, but can make it difficult to digest gluten.

Whole grains, which have all of the parts of the original kernel — bran, germ and endosperm — in the original proportions, help a person to feel full longer, can help keep digestion regular and also may help the body from absorbing “bad” cholesterol. They also may lower triglyceride levels, which are a major contributor to heart disease. Whole grains also can help people maintain healthy weights.

Just because a person is following a gluten-free diet does not mean he or she needs to avoid all grains, particularly whole grains that are so essential for good health. Most grains are gluten-free and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

• Amaranth: Amaranth is a tall plant and a few varieties are grown as a food source. It is considered a pseudocereal and is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, which is close to double the amount found in rice and corn.

• Buckwheat: Buckwheat is a good source of protein, fiber, phosphorous, and the B vitamin riboflavin. It also contains all of the nine essential amino acids that humans do not produce naturally and must consume through food.

• Corn: Corn products are gluten-free and can be consumed in many forms, whether whole kernel, ground into cornmeal or cornstarch, and formed into chips or tortillas. Corn is baked into breads as well. The Whole Grain Council says recent studies have found that corn has naturally high levels of resistant starch that may be especially good at making people feel full longer.

• Oats: Oats are inherently gluten-free, but quite often they are contaminated with wheat while growing or being processed. So it’s essential to find products that contain pure oats only.

• Quinoa: This grain is native to the Andean region of South America. Another complete protein, quinoa has high amounts of other nutrients, such as potassium, that helps control blood pressure. It also is rich in antioxidants.

• Rice: Rice provides about half the calories for nearly half of the world’s population, particularly in Asia and South America. Rice can be nutritious, particularly brown rice. Just one cup of cooked brown rice also provides 88 percent of daily need for manganese, a mineral that helps the body digest fats and get the most from proteins and carbohydrates.