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Good grains: 5 of the best wheat-free and gluten-free alternatives

March 31st 2015 / Katie Robertson Google+ Good grains: 5 of the best wheat-free and gluten-free alternatives


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They're nutritious, delicious and uber cheap - meet the five new gluten-free grains that are slimming our waistlines and rocking our world right now

Whether you’re suffering from a wheat intolerance or are simply looking to beat bloating and aid weight loss, going gluten-free is the current popular diet du jour. Indeed, it seems there isn’t a model, celebrity or actress who hasn’t at some point attributed a positive body transformation to cutting it out of their diet. And, while this may have projected it as a hip and healthy food trend to follow, there is in fact a wealth of nutritional sense behind its dietary rules.

The problem with wheat grain - the type found in most carbohydrates - is that it’s heavily processed, lacks any real nutritional value and is often difficult for the body to digest. It also has a high glycaemic index with two slices of bread causing the same, if not greater spike in blood sugar as a bar of chocolate - which means keeping it in your diet is also more than likely going to act as an obstacle to weight-loss.

However, contrary to what you might think, introducing gluten-free grains doesn’t mean feasting on a tasteless plate of mush - in fact, thanks to the range of good gluten- and wheat-free alternatives available, it’s never been easier, tastier or cheaper to switch up your diet and up your dosage of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

So, nutritious as they are delicious, meet the five new gluten and wheat-free grains that we’re sure your body and bank will both love.

MORE GLOSS: Why go gluten-free?


What is it and where is it from?

Pronounced ‘keen-wah’ (not ‘quin-oah’), this super popular pseudocereal can be found flourishing in South America (specifically in Peru, Chile and Bolivia), and has been a staple food of theirs for thousands of years. Indeed, evidence has shown that a bowl of quinoa was a daily dish eaten by the ancient Inca civilisation.

Available in two types - both red and creamy white - quinoa has soared into popularity with healthy foodies over the past few years due to its numerous health benefits. It’s often used in the place of bulgar wheat, couscous and rice due to the fact that it tastes and plays a similar role in dishes - however, it’s actually from the same family as beets, chard and spinach - go figure?

Why is it good?

Unlike the other grains mentioned here, quinoa packs a real protein punch and includes all nine essential amino acids - as well as magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium. As a result it’s an ideal option for vegetarians or vegans who struggle to get enough protein in their diets. It’s also jampacked with B vitamins, vitamin E and dietary fibre - meaning it’s slowly digested, keeping you fuller for longer.

Best eaten?

With a soft, nutty taste quinoa is an easy all-rounder. Toss it into salads, breakfast bowls and soups - or use it to bulk out a warming stew or stir-fry. Delicious.

MORE GLOSS: 10 protein packed vegetables you need to eat


What is it and where is it from?

Originally cultivated in Southeast Asia and areas of China, the production of buckwheat has since spread out to Europe and North America. While many people think it’s a cereal grain, it’s actually a fruit seed that’s related to rhubarb and sorrel, and it’s easy to use texture and smooth, clean taste has meant it’s used extensively in Eastern European cooking (it’s in the flour used to make blinis and the ingredient that makes gnocchi so indulgently gooey).

Why is it good?

It’s super high in manganese and magnesium, which is particularly good because it relaxes blood vessels, improves blood flow and nutrient delivery, all while lowering blood pressure - so essentially, it’s the perfect food to help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.

These beneficial effects are due in part to buckwheats rich supply of flavonoids, particularly rutin. Flavonoids are phytonutrients that protect against disease by extending the action of vitamin C and also act as antioxidants. Its 100 percent gluten free nature also means it’s the perfect option for those who are wheat-sensitive.

Best eaten?

A bowl of buckwheat is hearty and wholesome, which means it’s ideal for adding into soups, stews and winter warming dishes.


What is it and where is it from?

Marvellous millet is found growing in the dry regions of Africa and northern China and currently acts as a staple food in the diets of about a third of the worlds population - (It’s also often used as the main seed in bird food, but don’t let this put you off - the birds don’t know how good they have it!).

Why is it good?

Millet is a great source of important nutrients and is rich in iron, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus - which are again all helpful for keeping your heart healthy. A serving of millet also contains high levels of tryptophan - the precursor to serotonin - which is calming for the body and can lead to improved sleep. It’s also one of the few grains that is alkalising to the body.

MORE GLOSS: 5 reasons to go alkaline

Best eaten?

The most versatile and easily digestible of all the grains, millet can be made creamy like mashed potatoes or fluffed up for a rice type substitute. Simply add it into any breakfasts, lunches or dinners, and enjoy.


What is it and where is it from?

Similarly to quinoa, Amaranth is cultivated in the sunny hills of South America and grows as a tall green plant with a either a red, gold or purple flower. The name amaranth actually derives from the Greek word ‘amarantos’, which means ‘one that does not wither’ - which, as you might have guessed, is because amaranth’s beautiful flowers magically retain their vibrancy even after harvesting and drying.

Why is it good?

Cooked amaranth grains are positively brimming with goodness and contain a whole host of vitamins and minerals, including *breathe in* thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese - phew. As a result, several studies have shown that eating it regularly is likely to be of benefit to those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease as it helps to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while improving antioxidant status and some immune parameters. It’s also unusually rich in the essential amino acid lysine - which grains are notoriously low for having. What more could you ask for from a pseudocereal superfood?

Best eaten?

Often taking on a dense, claggy consistency, amaranth can be soaked overnight and used for a porridge-style breakfast or added into baking for a mouthwateringly moist consistency. Having said that, a handful tossed into a salad is just as delicious.


What is it and where is it from?

One of the newest and smallest grains to join the party, tiny teff originates in Ethiopia where, alongside coffee, it’s touted as Ethiopia’s ‘second gift to the world’. A national obsession, teff is currently grown by an estimated 6.3 millions African farmers and fields of the crop cover more than 20 per cent of all land under cultivation.

Why is it good?

While it may be the size of teeny, tiny poppy seeds, teff boats of host of big and bold qualities with it being high in iron and protein, and also contains an impressive set of amino acids. It’s been estimated that Ethiopians get about two-thirds of their dietary protein from teff with many of Ethiopia’s famed long-distance runners attributing their energy and health to this indigenous crop.

In particular though, it leads ahead of all other grains in its calcium content with one cup of cooked teff contains 123 mg - roughly the same as half-cup of cooked spinach. It’s also high in resistant starch, a newly-discovered type of dietary fiber that can benefit blood-sugar management, weight control, and colon health.

Best eaten?

Nutty like quinoa but with a sweeter twist, tasty teff can be substituted for wheat flour in anything from bread and pasta to waffles and pizza (healthy versions, of course). In particular, adding it into a pancake recipe helps deliver a mean stack...

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