There has been a lot of hype about gluten-free grains lately. But what exactly is gluten? Gluten is a type of protein. We always learned that proteins are good and helpful in building muscles. But, not all proteins are same. Therefore, it is very important to distinguish between hard to digest proteins and clean protein sources.
Gluten ( The hard to digest Protein) is found in certain grains. Even if you are not sensitive to gluten, it still overloads your digestive system. In extreme cases, it can cause allergic reactions and severe digestive problems. Often those who don’t have celiac disease or Crohns disease don’t even realize that their bodies are negatively affected by it.
If you do not trust me do not eat bread or any gluten-containing food for 10 days and eat it on the 11th day, you will immediately realize what gluten was doing to your body. You will have severe brain fog.
Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity or Intolerance
- Inflammation of the gut lining (in the case of coeliac disease it can lead to cancer)
- Skin problems such as rashes and eczema
- Poor immune system health e.g, constantly getting colds and flu
- Painful joints
Previously, it was hard to find good substitutes for gluten-containing grains. This isn’t the case anymore since there are now many substitutes available, both in packaged form and as flours and grains that you can use to bake and make meals from.
My advice is to first heal your guts before reintroducing these grains and flours back to the diet.
Foods Containing Gluten
Wheat, barley, and Rye all contain gluten. Wheat has been eaten throughout history and is a common grain today still. But wheat has changed over the years, often being genetically modified which has changed the structure of the plant itself, increasing gluten content and lessening the nutrients.
Wheat is often highly processed which causes it to lose even more nutrients like B-vitamins, iron, and fiber. It also plays havoc with our blood sugar levels causing hunger, cravings, weight gain and fatigue. This is especially harmful to diabetics. As for everyone else, often people have a sensitivity to gluten and are unaware. It shows up later as inflammation in the body.
Most people know about wheat, but not everyone knows about barley and rye which are also full of gluten. Other foods containing Gluten are:
- Wheat germ
- Graham flour
Other Hidden Sources of Gluten
- Wheat Grass
- Fried Vegetables
- Ice Cream
- Meat Balls
- Roasted Nuts
- Milkshakes that contain malt
- Brewers yeast
- French Fries ( Dusted with flour before Freezing)
For this reason, it is important to self-cook or eat foods with fewer ingredients.
Gluten-free grains in India and Worldwide
There are many naturally gluten-free grains. Gluten-free grains include millet, sorghum, and corn. But, still, I do not suggest eating millet, sorghum, and corn if you having digestion issues. If you are a healthy individual you can experiment with them. Here you can read the whole guide on grains
1. Rice is Gluten-Free
Rice is a staple food in many countries and households all over the world. It’s gluten-free. But if you want a grain full of nutrition, rice is not the best option. Rather, it’s full of empty calories. I eat rice only when going out for dinner and I do not have another option around. Eating rice once in a while, let’s say once every month, is fine.
The most antinutrients in the rice are in the outer layer and that’s why I prefer eating white rice over brown rice.
Brown rice and wild rice have some nutritional value, but they also contain phytates, lectins, and gut-irritating fibers. The same way some proteins are good and some are bad to your digestion. Same way there are good fibers and bad fibers. Before you make a decision to add a food item in your diet always look at what kind of proteins and what kind of fibers it has.
Parboiled rice is slightly better than normal white rice in that it has first been partially boiled with the outer layer still on, and then dried out and after that, the bran and germ are removed. This helps the rice to retain more of the nutrients, but even then, only about half of the nutrients are retained.
Arsenic in rice
Arsenic is a metal and is bad stuff for the body. Rice contains arsenic and even some mercury which it absorbs from the soil, water, and air. Brown and wild rice contain a lot more arsenic than the white varieties.
Because arsenic is present in the environment there are other crops that also absorb it, but not as much of it as rice does. It is not enough to poison you, but it can have long-term health effects including increasing the risk of certain cancers as well as heart disease.
You don’t have to cut out rice completely, but you should limit your intake of it. Many baby foods are made from rice, so choose those made from other grains. But, if you prepare rice properly, you can reduce the arsenic content.
Proper Method to Cook Rice
Varying your diet by including other types of grains and by doing so minimising your rice intake is one way to lower your arsenic intake. However, when you do eat rice you can reduce the amount of arsenic in it by doing the following:
Soak the rice first. Soak the rice overnight and then drain it and rinse it before cooking. The soaking will allow some of the arsenic to leach into the water. Or
Cook your rice in lots of water. Around 5 cups of water to 1 cup of rice will be enough water. Don’t cook it dry. When you are done cooking the rice, pour off the excess water. A lot of the arsenic will be removed this way.
Rinse again after draining. Drain the excess water off your rice when you have finished cooking it and then rinse it again with hot water to remove any of the leftover water it cooked in.
[ictt-tweet-blockquote]Cooled rice is better than freshly cooked rice because it has more resistant starch which your gut bacteria will love. #Rice #Resistantstarch, #Gutbacterias[/ictt-tweet-blockquote]
When people are going Gluten Free, the following grains like Amaranth, Quinoa, Buckwheat, Tapioca flour, Coconut, and Almond can help. But, to be honest the nutritional value of these flours is very little. I always have one packet in my home, but I do not use it very regularly because of its low nutrition profile compared to vegetables, grass-fed meat etc.
But, it is important to understand each one of these to make an informed decision, how to use what.
I have seen people in India emptying their pockets on Quinoa when an equally good Indian alternative called Amaranth is present cheaply in India. Plus, I am not a fan of imported food items as I believe logistics, transportation, take a lot of nutrients away from the food product.
Amaranth is also known as Chaulai or Amlan Ragin Pushp ka Paudha and is grown in several countries including India, Mexico, South America and China. In addition to its attractive nutrient profile, it contains healthy fats and is lower in carbohydrates and more easily digested than other grains. The protein and iron content in amaranth is slightly higher than in quinoa.
It has a starchy and slightly gelatinous type of texture and is great for using in main meals, puddings, as cereal and it can be popped like popcorn. In flour form, it can be used to thicken soups and sauces. So this could be a replacement for corn flour.
The flavor is slightly nutty and is less bitter than quinoa and it tends to absorb the flavors of the foods it’s being cooked with. It can be called a super grain in its own right and is cheaper than quinoa too.
3. Quinoa: The Complete Protein
It is often referred to as a super grain. Amongst all the grains, this is better and that’s why called super. It’s somewhat rare for a plant food to have the complete profile of all 20 amino acids, including the 10 essential amino acids our body doesn’t produce on its own, that’s why it’s called a Super Food.
Yes! It has all the proteins but you should be informed that one serving of Quinoa has 8 grams of proteins, while grass-fed beef has 26 grams of protein per serving. I would say, vegetarians might want to eat this a lot, but if you are a nonvegetarian I would not spend a lot of money on quinoa and eat it once in a while as a side dish.
It has a fluffy and chewy consistency and also has a nutty flavor. It’s great for using in salads, main meals and as cereal. It can also be found in flour form and be used to bake as well. Try to replace it with rice in some meals.
It is predominantly grown in South America but also in China, Canada, India and Europe.
3. Buckwheat- Gluten Free Grain
Buckwheat is another alternative to gluten-containing grains.
GI (Glycemic Index) is the measurement used when comparing different carbohydrates to see how quickly and how much they increase your blood sugar level. Buckwheat has a lower GI than wheat products meaning it keeps your blood sugar levels more stable and provides long-lasting energy. It also helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Here I am writing the gluten-free grains in the order of their priority. If you are a healthy individual and are looking for upgrading your health, you can now and then experiment with buckwheat but if you have any digestive issues, I would not recommend eating buckwheat. Some people tolerate them pretty good and some do not. It depends on how healthy or unhealthy your digestion is.
4. Gluten Free Oats
This is another grain that has caused some confusion. Oats are naturally gluten-free in theory, but some brands may be contaminated with gluten in their factories. Oats can also be grown in the same field as wheat which can contaminate it. Look for gluten-free oats to be sure.
Avoid Rolled Oats as they are especially high in phytates.
Phytate is an anti-nutrient present in the food. There are also other antinutrients, for example, phytates, lectins, Oxalates, and molds. Antinutrients play a bigger role than you think in how you feel every day. They can be the source of your cravings and can interfere with the hormones. Depending on how many antinutrients you feed your body, they might increase the toxic burden on your body and you can develop a serious disease like autoimmune, etc down the line.
That’s why it is important to eat fewer of these grains.
5. Gluten Free Pulses
Pulses are also known as legumes and are gluten free as well. Pulses are beans (such as pinto beans, black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans), lentils, and peas.
Whether or not you will tolerate beans, depends largely upon how they are prepared. Sprouted and soaked overnight are the best ones. When prepared properly, they are delicious. Our grandma knew about these antinutrients, so she soaked and pressure cooked the beans. Red kidney beans contain the highest amounts of the toxic lectin. You will come to know that for yourself. Try eating kidney beans before you go to bed at night and your farts will tell you the rest of the story.
They are so widely eaten in India and some other countries, that it is difficult to exclude them from the diet. But, we can prepare them properly.
Soaking, Draining, Pressure Cooking and Sprouting Beans for Maximum Benefits
Soaking the Pulses
As healthy as a lot of these grains and pulses are, some of them contain a substance called phytic acid which prevents the absorption of calcium, iron, and zinc by binding to them. Soaking, fermenting and sprouting are methods that can be used to break down the phytic acid so that the nutrients can be made available to be absorbed by the body during digestion.
This is how you properly soak your pulses
Place your pulses in a bowl.
Cover them in water (purified/filtered is better).
Drain and rinse. You can then cook them as per normal. Do not use the water in which you soaked your pulses. Cooking beans on too-low a heat can actually increase toxicity levels up to five times or more, so use high heat or pressure cook the soaked pulses.
If you are soaking for more than 12 hours, rinse them and add new water to make sure they stay clean and free of bacteria and mold.
Researchers found out soaking legumes reduced phytates by between 8 and 20 percent.
Sprouting your Beans
If you want to sprout them which helps to break down the phytic acid even further, this must be done after soaking and/or fermenting them.
Thoroughly clean a bowl or a sprouting container. You can get a sprouting container for 10 dollars online.
Put them into the container or bowl and add a little bit of water to keep them just damp. Leave it at room temperature but out of direct sunlight.
- Rinse and drain the seeds several (two to four) more times once every eight to 12 hours until the sprouts come out of the seeds.
The time it takes them to sprout depends on the type of grain, but it should be within 3-24 hours and you can see the sprouts coming.
You can now cook with them as per normal depending on what you want to do with them.
However, it must be remembered that soybeans should be avoided in all forms. But Natto ( a fermented soybean paste ), is the only form of soybean that could be included in the diet because of high Vitamin K2 content.
Conclusion on Beans: Beans are NOT a super food and should not be looked to nourish your body. If you are eating it because of taste than it should be properly cooked, minimize the effect of anti-nutrients present in them.
Naturally Gluten-Free Flours
Completely shifting your diet from eating grains to no grains at all can leave you feeling devastated. My approach is to go slowly on this journey. First, start with alternate days. I am already at a point where I use these flours only once a month. I do not miss bread or pancakes anymore. But, if I miss one, I make with gluten free healthy alternatives. I know these flours are expensive and not worth the effort because the nutrition profile is low. But, once in a while is fine. Here is the list of flours in the order of the priority.
1. Coconut Flour
When it comes to grain free baking, coconut flour is my top choice. Coconut flour is very heat stable and can be easily used in cooking. It contains zero grains, zero nuts, and is made completely of pure coconut.
2. Almond Flour
You can purchase almond flour at the health food store easily. But, they are expensive. Also, we are never sure if they were soaked before grinding. Soaking is important because of phytates and lectins present in the seeds.
This is how I prepare my almond flour:
Place the almonds in a bowl and combine with water. Soak overnight. Remove the skin. Dehydrate the almonds underneath the sun until completely dry. Pulverize the almonds in a food processor to make a fine powder.
I do not use almond flour so often because one cup of almond flour has around 50-100 almonds and this is a lot. But, when I am bored with eating vegetables and need a change, I go for it.
3. Rice Flour
Rice is one of the safest starches present today. There are foods with antinutrients, there are foods with no nutrients and there are foods with nutrients. Rice falls into the category of no nutrients. It is safe to use rice flour.
4. Cassava, Tapioca, and Arrowroot Starch
Cassava is brown root with white flesh. It’s widely grown all over Latin America and the Caribbean. Cassava can be boiled, baked, steamed, grilled, fried, mashed or added to stews. The flour made from this root is gluten-free and Can Be Used in Place of Wheat Flour. The Cassava roots are close to what we call white potatoes. Cassava decreases the appetite, hence it helps in losing weight.
Never eat them Raw, as they contain potentially deadly compounds. They are the sources of resistant starch and act as prebiotic (food for your good bacteria). Nutritionally they are not so nutrient dense. I use the cassava flour as a marinade for deep frying.
[ictt-tweet-blockquote]Tapioca flour is bleached and extracted for of Cassava. So choose Cassava over Tapioca. #cassavaflour #tapiocaflour[/ictt-tweet-blockquote]
Both Cassava and Tapioca is used as thickening agent. Use them in homemade puddings, mousses and to thicken the sauces. I use them sometimes to marinate the meat when I need a crusty outer.
Arrowroot starch is naturally gluten-free and a great alternative to gluten-containing flours. Arrowroot is as the name suggests a root and has a gel-like consistency. You can use it in the jellies, cakes.
[ictt-tweet-blockquote]Arrowroot is easier than cassava to digest, for the people with digestive issues. #arrowroot #digestion [/ictt-tweet-blockquote]
There are manufacturers out there, who are taking advantage of the gluten-free epidemic. There are sprouted flours on the market, where they sprout the grain. There are all-purpose flour, chickpea flour. I have read it all. One has the disadvantage over the other. This is my preference of one of the other.
A word from the Author
We all love eating wheat and wheat flours. Most of the clients ask if they would be able to eat wheat flour again and my answer is Yes! The problem is not with the wheat. It has been eaten for thousands of years. The problem is with our digestive systems. I put my clients on a strict gluten-free diet for 6 months and when their digestive system is restored, they can have “Organic Whole Wheat” now and then. The nutrition profile of wheat is not that attractive when compared to vegetables, but we all need variety.
Switch your body from carbohydrate burning to fat burning mode by limiting your carbs to less than 15 grams per day. When you are in that superior metabolic state enjoy your wheat now and then.
As with most foods, the less processed the better. Choose to buy raw whole grains where possible. The bran and germ of the grains contain a lot of nutrients which are lost when they are removed.
It’s also good to look for grains that are pathogen free. This will be mentioned on the packaging. Organic grains will have had little to no exposure to pesticides, unlike non-organic grains.
Wheat-based sourdough bread
Studies have been conducted on the effect of wheat-based sourdough bread on people suffering from coeliac disease. This disease affects the intestines and if those suffering from it consume gluten, the lining of their intestines become damaged caused by severe inflammation which can cause cancer in the long run.
They tested people suffering from the coeliac disease by giving them gluten-containing bread and checking the effect on their intestines. The majority of them ended up with inflammation. They were then given true wheat-based sourdough bread and it was found that there were no negative effects.
It seems that the cultures in the fermentation process of this bread break down some of the gluten. It’s best to be careful if you are gluten intolerant since the study was a short-term study and research is ongoing. But it shows that consuming sourdough bread every once in a while is fine. Slathering it with butter is a great way to enjoy it and take in some healthy saturated fat at the same time.
I’ve slowly begun experimenting with bread making. As noted in this study, sourdough bread, for example, is basically gluten-free because of the microbes, similar to the ones in yogurt, digest all the sugar during the fermentation process.
So, during your gluten-free journey, if you really crave a bread, go for this one.
- Coconut flour is the healthies Gluten-Free flour available on the market
- Use Cassava or Arrowroot flour as a thickening agent and for baking. Arrowroot being more nutritious.
- Healthiest gluten-free grains are amaranth, quinoa, oats, and buckwheat.
- Whether or not you can tolerate beans depends largely upon how they are prepared (Cooked)
- Sprouting, Soaking and Fermenting your beans are the healthiest options
- When introducing wheat back into the diet look for “Organic, whole wheat”. This can only be done after repairing your digestive line fully.
- Rice should be saved for social occasions and shouldn’t be cooked dry. Rather use 5 cups of water per cup of rice, throw off the excess water when cooking is complete, and rinse it to remove any leftover cooking water to reduce arsenic levels.
- Your child’s diet has a direct impact on his or her cognitive function and both quality and quantity of carbohydrates are important.
- The best source of carbohydrates is sweet potatoes, carrots, and pumpkin.
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