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Gluten-Free Whole Grains

October 8, 2013 by Andrea Godfreyson, Registered Dietitian

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Whether you have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or have decided to follow a gluten-free diet for other reasons, expanding the variety of grains you eat and focusing on whole grains is part of healthy eating.

In the past, the availability of gluten-free products was limited and most of the pre-packaged options were loaded with refined grains like white rice flour or cornstarch. The good news is, gluten-free whole grains are now easier to find and are even being included in some pre-packaged products. Here’s what you need to know about gluten-free whole grains.

Grains 101

Grains are the seeds of plants. Whole grains contain three core components (the endosperm, bran and germ). They also contain additional naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (plant compounds that may protect against some chronic diseases). Refined grains have had some, or all of their bran and germ removed along with the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fibre from that part of the grain. Some refined grains have been fortified with vitamins and minerals to replace some of those losses.

Whole grains not only provide nutrients but they may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. They also make you feel more satisfied than their refined counterparts which can be helpful for getting to or staying at a healthy weight.

Gluten-free Whole Grains

For best health, it’s recommended that at least half of the grains we eat every day are whole grains. This applies to people following a gluten-free diet too. Luckily, there are many whole grains that are naturally gluten-free.

Remember when quinoa was considered exotic? Now it’s widely available. Non-wheat noodles and ancient grains (such as amaranth) are two of the top 10 trends hitting the plates in Canadian restaurants right now (according to the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association 2013 Canadian Chef Survey).

Some may be more familiar to you than others, but they all offer unique tastes and textures. Here are 8 to try:

  1. Quinoa
  2. Rice (brown and wild)
  3. Corn or popcorn (look for the words ‘whole corn’ on labels)
  4. Amaranth
  5. Millet
  6. Teff
  7. Buckwheat (it’s not related to wheat)
  8. Sorghum

Try out one of these grains as a pilaf for your next side dish using this handy guide. You may just be a trend setter.


Recommended Resources:

Gluten Free Whole Grains
Gluten-Free Eating Resources
Celiac Disease: Eating a Gluten-Free Diet
Whole Grains: The Gluten Free Way

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