Between celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and dietary choices, it seems like everyone knows at least a few people who are no longer eating gluten. However, just because you or a family member has given up gluten doesn't mean that you have to miss out on nutrients. Today I'd like to share a guide to a few of my favorite healthful, vitamin- and mineral-rich foods, all of which are free of gluten.
Gluten-Free Whole Grains:
Yes, wheat, barley, farro, and many other grains contain gluten, but there are a whole bunch of healthful gluten-free whole grains in the market today! Here are a few fun options...
- Amaranth is a grain that has all the essential amino acids to make a complete protein. As versatile as it is delicious, amaranth can be popped like popcorn, cooked with water into a warm grain side dish that is similar in texture to rice or quinoa, or used in baking.
- Brown rice is rich in antioxidants, calcium, fiber, magnesium, potassium, protein, and thiamin. Its rich, nutty flavor makes it the perfect base for curries and stir-fries, and it's also a fantastic side dish. Cook brown rice with broth and herbs for an extra flavor boost.
- Oats are rich in trace minerals and antioxidants. They can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of chronic disease. There are many varieties of oat foods, but perhaps the most well-known are rolled oats, which can be cooked with water to make oatmeal. Oatmeal is a healthy, tasty breakfast treat that is especially delicious when topped with fresh fruit and skim milk.
- Sorghum is an African cereal grain that can be popped like popcorn too! You can also cook it into a porridge, or grind it into a flour that can be used for baking projects.
There's more to the story than just grain foods! For a balanced diet, you need fruits, vegetables, protein foods, and calcium-rich foods. The good news is that almost all of these foods are naturally gluten free! Some will have gluten added to them in processing (think breaded chicken, yogurt parfaits, etc). Check the Nutrition Facts labels to make sure that the foods you choose don't have gluten hiding in the ingredient list.
- Fruits are full of vital nutrients, especially fiber and potassium. Try berries, stone fruits, melons, citrus fruits, apples, bananas, mangoes, etc.
- Vegetables are key to a healthful and balanced diet. According to MyPlate "Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke [... and] may protect against certain types of cancers." Try leafy green, red and orange, and starchy vegetables, along with beans and peas and other veggies like avocado and cauliflower. The possibilities are endless!
- Protein foods offer a bunch of important nutrients. There are tons of different foods that are rich in protein, including beef, chicken, pork, soy products like tofu, beans and peas (you can count them as a vegetable or a protein food!), nuts and seeds, fish, shellfish, and eggs. Choose low-fat options and try something new! After all, variety is key to the protein food group.
- Calcium-rich foods include most dairy products and calcium-fortified alternatives like soy milk. Options that have low to no fat usually offer the most nutrients and the fewest empty calories. Try milk, soymilk, almond milk, yogurt, cheese, lassi, and frozen yogurt.
Whether you're putting together a gluten-free menu for a visiting friend or planning meals for your own gluten-free lifestyle, make sure that you make choices that are rich in nutrients. These options are a wonderful place to start.
Here's a handout with the highlights of today's post!
Since gluten is such a hot topic, my team and I have created a whole bunch of gluten-free educational materials for the Nutrition Education Store. Check out these top sellers!
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Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.