Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Gluten-Grains Dilemma And Its Alternatives

There Are Many Good Gluten-Free Grains To Use Instead Of Conventional Grains

As a young kid my mother always use to tell me to eat my wheaties and so I did. And as a teenager I was totally addicted to both white bread and whole grain bread. Its a very good thing I didn't have gluten-sensitivity as I would be in trouble by now. But is any kind of bread really nessecary for good health? While processed white bread definitely isn't healthy, whole grains are thought to be very good for you. They are an excellent source of fiber and have shown to protect against cardiovascular disease.1 However, they often contain gluten, which is a kind of protein usually found in the grains rye, wheat, kamut, and barley. Gluten-sensitivity is thought to affect millions of people and can damage the intestines.2 And its also been linked to many other chronic diseases.3 Maybe gluten-sensitivity can be explained by looking back through human history and realizing that for most of it we didn't consume nearly as much grains as we do today. Grains make up a large portion of todays western diet.

But never fear! If your like me and find giving up your beloved bread too difficult there are alternatives to the gluten-breads commonly found in stores. As I said above, there are grains that do not contain gluten like rice, millet, quinoa, and amaranth. My absolute favorite is brown rice and the nice thing is rice can be used in just as many ways as gluten-grains. You can make cakes, cookies, ice-cream, crackers, breadsticks, bread loaves, soup, with rice and even use it as a meat substitute due to the protein content. Rice is also very easy to flavor the way you want because it doesn't have much flavor by itself. Its always best to check the label of a bread product before you buy to see if it really has gluten or not in it. A lot of food is highly processed and though it may be naturally gluten-free that doesn't necessarily mean that the processing didn't put gluten in it. So always check labels and package before buying (which you should be doing anyway).

Next on the list is millet. This grain is also very versatile with a soft texture and high magnesium content. Millet is a very ancient grain, which is actually a seed, and has been grown and consumed throughout history. In northern Africa and India its a signature food. It ranks very close to rice for being one of the most commonly consumed foods in the world (especially in Asia). It can be used in such ways as cereal, soups, bread loaves, cakes, and can be fed to cattle and birds. Its not entirely known what family millet belongs to, but is thought to be related to sorghum that produces sorghum syrup. Besides magnesium, millet also contains such nutrients as fiber (like most grains), B vitamins, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium. And it may also contain phytochemcials which act as antioxidants.

Amaranth is also another gluten-free grain thats a relative of the Chenopodiaceae plant family. Other members of this family are swiss chard, quinoa, and spinach so its got to be healthy. It was quite a famous food in ancient South America where the Aztecs believed this colorful plant had mystical powers and often used it in their religious ceremonies. But it was soon banned by Spanish conquistadors after they arrived in South America. It was almost lost to history but thankfully remote populations in the Andes kept the tradition of the Amaranth plant alive. Its actually not a grain at all but a herb. Theres many ways to cook amaranth such as cereals, pasta, popcorn, cookies, and crackers or soup. It contains such nutrients as amino acid lysiene, magnesium, selenium, phosphorous, and potassium.

Sources:

1. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070509161030.htm
2. Is Gluten Behind Your Health Problems? http://www.nutritionresearchcenter.org/healthnews/is-gluten-behind-your-health-problems/
3. Dangerous Grains http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/10/05/dangerous-grains.aspx
Millet http://chetday.com/millet.html
Amaranth: A Healthy Grain for Vegetarian Recipes http://chetday.com/amaranth.html

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