Are you gluten-free? Are you thinking of incorporating gluten-free foods into your diet? Some people associate a gluten-free diet as a healthy lifestyle because, when becoming gluten-free, you may also change your eating habits.
When you think of gluten, what comes to mind? Well, all of the tastiest foods contain gluten in them. Your hamburger has a gluten bun. Your sandwich has gluten bread. And your delicious deep dish pizza? That has a scrumptious gluten crust!
The gluten isn’t the only factor at play here. When you subtract gluten foods and you add gluten-free foods, you may also be continuing to eat unhealthy foods. When processed foods eliminate gluten, they have to replace it with something so the food maintains its shape. Sugar and fat do the job perfectly. Do you see why gluten-free isn’t always healthy?
MORE: The Real Reason You Feel Good After Dropping Gluten
There are people who can’t consume gluten at all. They might have sensitivities, allergies, or intolerances to gluten, or may even have celiac disease (a reaction to the gluten protein, gliadin). There are also children with autism spectrum disorder who have benefited from a gluten-free diet.
People with these conditions will continue to eat processed breads, cakes, pastas, muffins, pastries, cereals, or crackers, as long as the package says “gluten-free.” It is best to thoroughly check the labels for any added sugar, fat, or unnecessary chemicals, additives, or preservatives.
Healthy Gluten Options
If you do not have a serious gluten condition, gluten grains are healthy to eat because they are naturally plant-based foods. Wheat, rye, and barley all contain gluten. Oats don’t contain gluten; however, they may be contaminated from the processing plants of gluten grains.
When gluten grains are added to processed food products such as granola bars, cereals, or breads, they transform into very unhealthy food products. Ancient grains with gluten include triticale (cross between durum wheat and rye), emmer, faro, kamut, and spelt.
If you have gluten problems, grains you should avoid include bulgur, seitan, wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ, couscous, cracked wheat, durum, einkorn, farina, fu, gliadin, graham flour, matzo, and semolina.
7 Healthy Gluten-Free Foods
There are gluten-free foods I think everyone should eat, whether they are on a gluten-free diet or not. You may not even realize these foods are gluten-free!
These gluten-free grains or pseudo-grains are healthy foods you should regularly incorporate in your diet.
The quinoa seed is sometimes considered a grain because of its texture. It’s gluten-free and a highly nutrient-rich healthy food.
Quinoa includes all nine amino acids and is essential for a gluten-free diet. Rice flour and quinoa flour can combine for a delicious gluten-free pasta alternative.
Millet is an important food in African culture and is used to make the traditional flatbread, injera. Millet is a gluten-free grain that is beneficial for bone health because it contains phosphorus and manganese.
Millet can be prepared to reflect the consistency of fluffy rice or creamy mashed potatoes, and these side dishes are perfect for gluten-free meals.
Teff is considered a type of millet with a sweet tasting flavor, commonly used within Ethiopian cuisine.
It is a beneficial gluten-free grain, containing many minerals, including calcium and iron. It is also a great source of protein and fiber. You will usually find teff in baked goods.
4. Brown Rice
Not all rice is the same. When white rice is processed, it loses 70-90% of its B vitamins, and also large quantities of its iron, manganese, and phosphorus.
White rice is commonly eaten, and it is gluten-free; however, the U.S. white rice is enriched with B vitamins and iron, while nearly 11 nutrients are not replaced. Research shows that brown rice’s ferulic acid and other phytonutrients can potentially control high blood pressure and protect you from getting kidney stones.
5. Wild Rice
Wild rice is actually an aquatic seed and not rice. In the U.S., it is grown mostly in California and Minnesota. You can definitely consider wild rice a super grain and it should be part of every gluten-free diet.
It is high in the amino acid lysine and the B vitamins. It tastes slightly chewy and is great when combined with brown rice.
Healthy gluten-free foods like to trick us. Buckwheat is not in the wheat family, but is related to rhubarb. Buckwheat kasha can be a breakfast cereal and buckwheat soba noodles can make a great pasta salad.
Buckwheat flour and quinoa flour can also combine nicely to form pasta. Buckwheat is high in protein and is a very good source of manganese.
Amaranth is a super grain known to play a big part in the pre-Columbian Aztec diet. The Aztecs believed that this grain gave them supernatural power.
Considering it is packed with nutrients, who can blame them? It has high amounts of potassium, iron, phosphorus, vitamins A and C, and it has 17% protein.
Also, its calcium content doubles the amount found in cow’s milk. The lysine found in amaranth is also double the amount found in wheat.
It is great when combined with other grains. This gluten-free grain is fairly unknown in the U.S., but my supernatural power predicts amaranth will be in more homes in the coming years.
Are you still unsure what great gluten-free foods are? There are plenty of gluten-free foods that everyone should be eating, whether you are on a gluten-free diet or not. It is wise to shift your “everything gluten-free is healthy” mindset to a balanced diet with extremely nutrient-rich gluten-free whole grains and seeds. Gluten-free diets can be healthy, but only when they are done right.
Brazier, B., The Thrive Diet: The Whole Foods Way to Losing Weight, Reducing Stress, and Staying Healthy For Life (Toronto: Penguin Group, 2007), 139-141, 162-163.
Mateljan, G., The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007), 660-662, 672, 676, 678, 686, 688.
Kerr, M., “Gluten Allergies Food List: What to Avoid & What to Eat,” Healthline web site, May 4, 2012; http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/gluten-food-list?toptoctest=expand.
Anderson, J., “Gluten-Free Food List – What You CAN Eat,” About.com web site, Aug. 23, 2012; http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/glutenfreefoodshoppin1/ss/Gluten-Free-Food-List_2.htm.