Gluten-free doesn’t mean grain-free

RIVERSIDE COUNTY – Many people are adopting gluten-free diets for a variety of reasons. While such a diet means passing on foods that contain wheat protein, such as certain breads, crusts and baked goods, it doesn’t mean giving up on grains entirely. Many grains are acceptable for those adhering to a gluten-free diet, and such grains can help fill the void left by avoiding wheat products.

Gluten-free foods are required for people who have Celiac disease, an autoimmune condition of the small intestines that is triggered by the consumption of wheat protein. Celiac disease can cause damage to the lining of the small intestines, which results in a decreased absorption of nutrients. This can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive the body and brain of necessary nourishment.

While people with Celiac disease have to avoid foods that contain gluten, many more people choose to remove gluten from their diets. This includes people with gluten allergies or sensitivities that are not as severe as Celiac disease but can cause some gastrointestinal discomfort.

The relationship between gluten and certain behavioral problems in children and adults also has been studied. In a paper titled “Developmental Disorders and Dairy Products, Grains, Gluten and Other Proteins,” researchers at the Bamford-Lahey Children’s Foundation found that sensitivity to proteins in both dairy and wheat has been associated with a number of neurological and behavioral disorders in groups of adults and children.

To avoid gluten, a person has to remove wheat products, barley, spelt, rye, and triticale from his or her diet. However, there are many other foods that can be eaten. Plus, flours made from grinding other grains can be used in place of wheat flour in recipes. The finished products may just have less of the doughy or elastic consistency that is a hallmark of gluten. Here are some grains men and women on gluten-free diets can still enjoy.

Oats: Though they are traditionally gluten-free, oats are often processed on the same equipment that processes other grains. Therefore, there may be some cross-contamination. Oats that are certified gluten-free can be more costly.

Buckwheat: Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to regular wheat and is not exactly a grain. It is a relation of rhubarb. In its whole form it can take the place of pasta. In its roasted form, buckwheat takes on a nutty flavor.

Quinoa: This is not a grass plant or cereal grain but is actually related to leafy vegetables. Quinoa is often eaten like you would eat rice or pasta, but it can also be baked into bread and cakes.

Rice: Many people avoiding gluten turn to rice as an alternative. Rice flour can be substituted for wheat flour in many recipes. Rice can also create a sense of fullness that comes with eating a starchy grain.

Corn: Cornmeal can be used in baked goods. However, it will offer a grainy texture.

Amaranth: This is a tiny, ancient grain. It is a complete protein and has more iron than most grains.

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