kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

People avoid gluten for a variety of reasons and thankfully, there are a lot of gluten-free grains available on the market. Some people are gluten intolerant and have an autoimmune response called celiac disease, while others just feel better avoiding it.

It is a fact that modern wheat is making people sick. Some doctors and scientists believe there’s been an increase in gluten-sensitivity due to environmental and food changes. New wheat varieties have a higher gluten content and farmers use this wheat with higher gluten because of its natural insecticide qualities.

Research reveals that consumption of modern wheat is the first step in triggering autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, according to Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who wrote the book Wheat Belly.

“Wheat is the most destructive thing you could put on your plate, no question,” Dr. Davis writes. He believes that by eliminating wheat from your diet, you can reverse autoimmune diseases and reduce inflammation. He blames the mind fog, mood swings, joint pains and acid reflux he experienced on wheat. “You take wheat out of the diet and you literally see lives transformed,” Davis says.

Here are a few substitutes that can help you replace wheat in your diet.

Millet comes in many varieties, with the pearl millet being the most popular. It is produced around the world and is very hearty and able to withstand near drought conditions as well as plenty of rain. Millet flour is a common substitute for wheat flour in baking. Millet is an ancient grain, which are grains and pseudocereals (seeds that are consumed like grains) that have remained mostly unchanged for thousands of years.

Millet is a whole grain and cannot be stored for long periods of time. Buy what you can use in a month and store it in an air-tight glass container. Millet is a traditional grain in Saharan Africa and India, where it is used to make bajra rotis, traditional flatbreads. In Germany, a sweet millet porridge is made with apples and honey and in Russia, the dish kasha is made with millet, butternut squash and golden raisins.

One cup of cooked millet has:

  • Calories: 207
  • Carbs: 41 grams
  • Fiber: 2.2 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Fat: 1.7 grams
  • Phosphorus: 25% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Magnesium: 19% of the DV
  • Folate: 8% of the DV
  • Iron: 6% of the DV

Millet provides more essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, than most other cereals.

Teff is an African grain that is similar to grass. It grows in Eritrea and Ethiopia and is one of the oldest cultivated plants, with records indicating it may have been grown for food as early as 4,000B.C.E. Teff is high in fiber, calcium, iron and protein. Teff is the main ingredient in Ethiopian injera, the spongy sourdough flatbread used as the primary eating utensil in Ethiopian restaurants. Here in the US, the grain is often used as a hot cereal. Athletes swear by teff as a super energy food due to its high mineral content.

A grain of teff is just 1/100 the size of a kernel of wheat. Teff can also be mixed into chili, made into porridge, or used as a natural way to thicken dishes.

3.5 ounces uncooked teff contains:

  • Calories: 367
  • Carbs: 73 grams
  • Protein: 13.3 grams
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 8 grams – 32% of the DV
  • Manganese: 402% of the DV
  • Copper: 90% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 98% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 44% of the DV
  • Iron: 42% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 34% of the DV
  • Zinc: 33% of the DV

Sorghum is an ancient whole grain first cultivated in Africa. It grows tall and is extremely inexpensive to grow. Sorghum is typically cultivated as both a cereal grain and animal feed. It’s also used to produce sorghum syrup, a type of sweetener, as well as some alcoholic beverages.

3.5 ounces uncooked sorghum provides:

  • Calories: 329
  • Carbs: 72 grams
  • Protein: 11 grams
  • Fat: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams – 27% of the DV
  • Manganese: 70% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 39% of the DV
  • Copper: 32% of the DV
  • Selenium: 22% of the DV

Sorghum is not only high in nutrients but also but also a good source of powerful polyphenol plant compounds, including anthocyanins and phenolic acids, that act as antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress and lower your risk of chronic disease. The fiber in sorghum can help slow the absorption of sugar to keep your blood sugar level.

One study compared blood sugar and insulin levels in 10 people after eating a muffin made with either sorghum or whole-wheat flour. The sorghum muffin led to a greater reduction in both blood sugar and insulin than the whole-wheat muffin.

Sorghum has a mild flavor and can be ground into flour for baking gluten-free goods. It can also replace barley in recipes like mushroom-barley soup.

Amaranth was a staple of the Aztec diet; it was even honored with a month-long cultural celebration.

One cup of cooked amaranth contains:

  • Calories: 251
  • Carbs: 46 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams – 20% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Manganese: 91% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 38% of the DV
  • Iron: 29% of the DV

Amaranth has been linked to numerous health benefits, including decreased heart disease risk and inflammation. For example, an animal study found that a diet high in amaranth significantly reduced total cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol levels, compared to diets high in other grains.

Amaranth can be easily used in place of rice, couscous, and quinoa. Or add amaranth to soups or stews to add bulk and thickness. Amaranth makes a fine-grained but dense flour. It has a nutty flavor and is extremely dense. The grain can be cooked like couscous or pasta and should be boiled with a good deal of water. Use it as a substitute for the bulgar wheat in tabbouleh.

Quinoa is and ancient grain and one of the healthiest grains you can eat. it has a high amount of antioxidants and is a good source of protein. It is one of the few plant foods considered a complete protein source. While most plant foods are lacking in one or two of the essential amino acids required by your body, quinoa contains all eight, making it an excellent plant-based source of protein.

Quinoa flour can also be used to make pancakes, tortillas, or quick bread.

One cup of cooked quinoa has:

  • Calories: 222
  • Carbs: 39 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams – 21% of the DV
  • Manganese: 51% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 28% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 23% of the DV
  • Folate: 19% of the DV
  • Zinc: 18% of the DV

Quinoa contains potent antioxidants, such as quercetin and kaempferol, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. It has a mild taste and is easy to incorporate into breakfast bowls, lunches, and dinners.

Buckwheat

The ancient grain, buckwheat, has been cultivated for more than 8,000 years. It was a common crop worldwide until nitrogen fertilizer was introduced in the 20th century, which increased the production of corn and wheat. As a result, these crops were planted in fields formerly used for buckwheat, and the production of buckwheat fell dramatically, although it still figures prominently in Eastern European cuisines.

The triangular kernels are considered a “pseudocereal,” the category name for seeds from non-grass plants commonly consumed in the same way as grains. Amaranth and quinoa are also pseudocereals.

Buckwheat groats are the seeds of a flowering plant. Products like buckwheat flour, soba noodles, and kasha, or roasted groats can be found in most markets. Buckwheat comes from the Fagopyrum esculentum plant, which is related to rhubarb and sorrel.

Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and is gluten-free. Two types of buckwheat, common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and Tartary buckwheat (Fagopyrum tartaricum), are most widely grown for food. Buckwheat is mainly harvested in the northern hemisphere, especially in Russia, Kazakhstan, China, and Central and Eastern Europe.

Carbs are the main dietary component of buckwheat. Protein and various minerals and antioxidants are also present. The nutritional value of buckwheat is considerably higher than that of many other grains. The nutrition facts for 3.5 ounces of raw buckwheat are:

  • Calories: 343
  • Water: 10%
  • Protein: 13.3 grams
  • Carbs: 71.5 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 10 grams
  • Fat: 3.4 grams

The most abundant minerals in common buckwheat are:

  • Manganese is essential for healthy metabolism, growth, development, and your body’s antioxidant defenses.
  • Copper is often lacking in the Western diet. It is an essential trace element that may benefit heart health when eaten in small amounts.
  • Magnesium lowers your risk of various chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Iron deficiency leads to anemia, a condition characterized by reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of your blood.
  • Phosphorus plays an essential role in the growth and maintenance of body tissues.

Compared to other grains, the minerals in cooked buckwheat groats are particularly well absorbed.

Carbs make up about 20% of boiled groats by weight. They come in the form of starch, which is carbs’ primary storage form in plants. Buckwheat scores low to medium on the glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar after a meal. Some of the soluble carbs in buckwheat, such as fagopyritol and D-chiro-inositol, have been shown to help moderate the rise in blood sugar after meals.

Buckwheat contains a decent amount of fiber, which your body cannot digest. This resistant starch is good for colon health. By weight, fiber makes up 2.7% of boiled groats and is mainly composed of cellulose and lignin. Fiber is concentrated in the husk, which coats the groat. Resistant starch is fermented by gut bacteria in your colon. These beneficial bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate. Butyrate and other SCFAs serve as nutrition for the cells lining your colon, improving gut health and decreasing your risk of colon cancer.

This pseudocereal contains antioxidants and phenolic compounds, which may help to fight certain types of cancer. Some of the antioxidants found buckwheat include flavonoids like oligomeric proanthocyanidins, which protect your cells against free radical damage and prevent the kind of dangerous inflammation that can contribute to the spread of cancer. Buckwheat provides more antioxidants than many other cereal grains, such as barley, oats, wheat, and rye.

Here are some of buckwheat’s main plant compounds:

  • Rutin is the main antioxidant polyphenol in buckwheat. Rutin may lower your risk of cancer and improve inflammation, blood pressure, and your blood lipid profile. Some animal studies have suggested that rutin may help improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Among cereals and pseudocereals, buckwheat is the richest source of rutin.Rutin may cut your risk of heart disease by preventing the formation of blood clots and decreasing inflammation and blood pressure.
  • Quercetin is found in many plant foods. It is an antioxidant that may have a variety of beneficial health effects, including lowering your risk of cancer and heart disease.
  • D-chiro-inositol is a unique type of soluble carb that reduces blood sugar levels and may benefit diabetes management. Buckwheat is the richest food source of this plant compound.

Though buckwheat can be used in the same way as whole grains like wheat and barley, this seed is naturally gluten free, which makes it a great choice for people with celiac disease or grain sensitivities. Swapping this seed with typical grains containing gluten may also be helpful for people suffering from digestive disturbances like leaky gut syndrome.

Apart from causing allergic reactions in some people, buckwheat does not have any known adverse effects when eaten in moderation. A buckwheat allergy is more likely to develop in those who consume buckwheat often and in large amounts. A phenomenon known as allergic cross-reactivity makes this allergy more common in those already allergic to latex or rice.

How to Buy

Most grocery stores stock packages of buckwheat groats; check the baking and cereal aisles or look near the rice and beans.Or, check the bulk bins. Buckwheat flour should be on the baking aisle and in bulk bins. Look for kasha, pre-toasted buckwheat groats, near the breakfast oats. You can also find varied buckwheat products from raw groats to packaged crackers.

How to Store

Store dried buckwheat groats as you would any grain, in an airtight container protected from light, heat, and moisture. It does not have a particularly long shelf life. The Whole Grains Council recommends using buckwheat groats within two months. Buckwheat flour should also be stored in an airtight container, and it should be used right away, or within a month. Keeping it in the freezer doubles its shelf life.

How to Cook

Soak buckwheat overnight if you have the time to get rid of the anti-nutrients. If not, rinse buckwheat well, then cook it in a 1:2 ratio of water. Bring the water to a boil, add the buckwheat groats and some salt, let it come to a boil again and then cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook it for about 15 minutes or until it becomes tender.

Buckwheat groats can be ground into flour for use in noodles, crepes, pancakes, and many gluten-free products; it is the primary ingredient in Japanese soba noodles, but many brands include some wheat flour as well, so packaged soba noodles may not be gluten-free.

Raw buckwheat groats add texture and nutrition to granola, cookies, cakes, crackers, and other bread-like products. They can also be sprouted for use on sandwiches and in salads.

Buckwheat, which becomes gelatinous in liquid, also makes a good binding agent for baking.

Try soba noodles made from buckwheat as a gluten-free swap for traditional pasta. Use buckwheat to add crunch to soups, salads, or a veggie burger.

 

Seeded Buckwheat Cookies

Miles Thompson/ Photography: Peden+ Munk

30 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) dairy-free butter, room temperature (I like MELT.)
  • ⅔ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds (not toasted)
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon poppy seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once or twice, until lightly browned and beginning to smell nutty, 5–8 minutes (do not toast them all the way; they will get baked again). Let cool. Turn off oven.
  2. Pulse pecans, buckwheat flour, salt, baking powder, and 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour in a food processor until pecans are finely ground.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium–high speed, beat dairy-free butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients just to blend. Divide dough in half; wrap each in plastic wrap, flattening into ½”-thick disks. Chill until very firm, at least 2 hours.
  4. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll disks of dough between 2 lightly floured sheets of parchment paper to about ⅛” thick. Transfer to a baking sheet and remove top sheet of parchment. Chill 30 minutes.
  5. While dough is chilling, mix granulated sugar, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds in a small bowl. Reheat oven to 350°.
  6. Using a knife or pastry cutter, cut out 2” squares or diamonds from dough and space out on baking sheet, about ½” apart. Sprinkle with sesame mixture and bake cookies until golden brown around the edges, 10–12 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool before serving.

DO AHEAD: Dough can be made 5 days ahead; keep chilled. Cookies can be baked 2 days ahead; store airtight at room temperature.

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