The ten healthiest, gluten-free ‘cereals’ that you can vary with

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Many people nowadays eat (partly) gluten-free . Maybe you too. Maybe because a doctor has told you that you have celiac disease or simply because you notice that you feel better when you (for the most part) leave gluten. But do you sometimes have trouble with that, to let them stand? 

Fortunately, there are now many healthy gluten-free ‘grains’ that you can use. This allows you to enjoy a portion of pasta or a sandwich every now and then. There are healthy, but also much less healthy options. I’ll tell you more about that in this article.

Grains in bread products and pastas are the biggest problem and at the same time are sorely missed by many.

The food industry loves gluten

Gluten is a type of protein found in a few grains,  wheat  being by far the best known. Wheat is easy to grow and very cheap. It is therefore in many processed products in which you may not expect it. Even your lipstick can contain gluten!

Other gluten-containing grains that are less well known are  rye, barley, spelled and kamut.  All these types are loved by the bakers and the food industry because gluten-containing grains have good adhesive power. Gluten can be seen as a kind of glue that you can stretch extremely long. This gives the end product elasticity, resilience and creaminess; that’s why bakers love it so much. Extra gluten is often even  added  to breads to further enhance these properties.

The fluffier and light a bread is, the more gluten it contains. And often that type of bread is popular among consumers.

From digestive problems to ‘brain fog’

Good for the sales figures of bakers and supermarkets, which contain gluten, but not so good for our intestines. Gluten has an  irritating effect  on their intestinal wall in many people. Some become very ill after a crumb of bread: these people have the autoimmune disease celiac disease, a serious disease in which the  immune system  turns against its own body.

However, there are also many people who do not have celiac disease but who are hypersensitive to gluten; this is called gluten sensitivity. The result of this is often a wide range of  digestive problems . The intestinal wall can also become too permeable, causing substances to enter the body that do not belong there. This is also known as a  leaky gut .

A leaky gut can cause other problems: skin disorders, inflammation in the joints, depression and ‘brain fog’ for example. The latter two are also associated with ‘leaky brains’ due to the excessive permeability of the intestinal wall. A lot of research has been done on this lately. (1)

Gluten has an irritating effect on the intestinal wall in many people, making it too permeable. This can cause a wide range of complaints.

Happy with the gluten-free box? Beware of this pitfall!

Due to all the new knowledge about the possible harmful effects of gluten, the number of people who  eat gluten-free  has increased enormously in recent years. The industry has eagerly responded to this. Bread, crackers, candy, biscuits, snacks….everything is available gluten-free these days. For example, the amount of gluten-free products sold doubled in five years, between 2014 and 2018. (2)

Yet we have not become healthier. The replacements for gluten-containing products may be even unhealthier than the original product. To get the same elasticity as with gluten, all kinds of tricks are taken out of the box. Sugars, unhealthy fat, starch: all good ingredients to mimic the effect of gluten.

Many products in the gluten-free section are often even unhealthier for us than the original product

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Plenty of sugars and starches and few nutrients

Besides the unhealthy gluten imitations, the rest of the ingredients of ready-to-use gluten-free products are also not to be happy about. The gluten-containing grains such as wheat are mainly replaced here by white rice or maize (starch) flour. Both nice and cheap and gluten-free, but preferably leave them to the left, because they are  fattening .

Don’t be surprised if you gain weight if you eat products from the gluten-free shelf. They are fat people.

White rice and corn contain few nutrients and a lot of sugars in the form of starch. With this you mainly eat filling and you completely miss the mark in terms of health. It is also better to leave products made of potato flour on the shelves. Don’t you have celiac disease? Then it is better to eat a good whole-wheat spelled sandwich than a gluten-free variant based on rice and corn. The spelled sandwich contains more nutrients, more  fiber  and has much less effect on your blood sugar level.

Happy gluten free? So not standard. So don’t fall for the healthy image of gluten-free food too much. Fortunately, it can also be different.

Gluten-containing grains such as wheat are often replaced by white rice or corn (starch) flour. Cheap fillers with little nutritional value.

Throw it a different tack

Try to change tack by not replacing gluten-containing products one-on-one, but looking for  healthy alternatives . Because there are many healthy, gluten-free (pseudo) grains and grains. Without a long list of ingredients, without imitation, without unnecessary substances and additives.

Do you want to eat gluten free? Then look for healthy alternatives.

Then what?

If you want to choose a healthy gluten-free substitute, you sometimes  have to look beyond your nose . In any case, avoid the standard gluten-free shelf. Many supermarkets already have quite a lot in stock, but you can often find these products crisscrossing the store. So you often have to search. This list will help you make healthy, gluten-free choices. With a few smart tips where to find them and of course: what you can do with them!

Oats

Let’s start with the best-known gluten-free cereal. Oats are fully established in the supermarket and delicious as porridge, in bread and in cookies. However, there is a little catch with oats. That is that it may be contaminated with gluten from the factory where gluten-containing grains are also processed. For those who want or need to avoid this risk, there is  certified gluten-free oats.

Oats also contain some kind of gluten of their own, but not the irritating and harmful form I talked about earlier.

Oats are known for their high content of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that is important for keeping sugar levels as constant as possible. Oats also contain quite a bit of  magnesium and B vitamins.

Quinoa

Quinoa is not a grain, but a seed. Yet we often use it as an alternative to grain. This has given quinoa, and similar “grains,” the name pseudo-grain. It originates from South America, but is now also  grown in Europe and even in the Netherlands.

Quinoa is very rich in nutrients and vegetable protein and is also known as a superfood. You can find it in every supermarket these days, often in the rice department. Ideal as a substitute for couscous and rice, but you can also use it to cook breakfast porridge or use it in cookie dough or muffins. Quinoa flour, a considerably more expensive product, can be used in batter for pancakes or wraps.

Almond flour

Finely ground almonds (or other nuts) make a healthy flour that is an  ideal substitute  for wheat flour in pancake batter, quiche dough and cookies. You can make it yourself or buy it ready-made from the baking department in the supermarket. The taste is soft and slightly sweet.

Almond flour should not be heated as high as other flours, maximum 180 degrees.

Millet

Millet is a somewhat unknown grain, or rather a seed. You may know it as long strands hanging in birdcages. They are small, light yellow grains that you can cook to replace rice. Millet is  rich in minerals  such as iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Of the gluten-free grains discussed here, it does have the strongest response to your blood glucose level, so don’t eat it too often. Millet is not available in the supermarket, but it is available in organic stores such as the Ekoplaza.

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Teff

Not so well known to us, but in Ethiopia it is daily fare. Teff is a super healthy pseudo-grain, especially  for women .

With valuable nutrients such as calcium, iron and protein, teff should be in every woman’s kitchen.

It is sold as flour and is dark in color. Teff is especially suitable for baking small pancakes and as part of bread. It has a savory, nutty flavor. You can find teff at the health food shelf in some supermarkets. Organic stores have a wider range.

Buckwheat

Perhaps the best-known gluten-free substitute. Buckwheat is extremely versatile and also falls under the pseudo-cereals. You’ll find it as whole grain, grits, flakes, and flour. The grains (seeds) can be boiled or roasted. You can make old-fashioned porridge from the grits and flakes. The flour is suitable as a base for all kinds of baking (from cake to bread) and perfect for baking pancakes and wraps.

Soba noodles are also made from buckwheat and are a healthy substitute for pasta.

Just check the back of the packaging to see if it is 100% buckwheat; this is sometimes messed with. Buckwheat is  rich in  antioxidants  including high levels of two specific types: rutin and quercetin. (4) It has little response to blood glucose levels.

Coconut flour

Coconut flour is made from the dried flesh of coconuts. It is a tasty and slightly sweet flour, packed with fiber.

Coconut flour is sometimes a bit difficult to process. It absorbs a lot of moisture and can therefore not be replaced 1:1 for other flours.  That’s why it’s often used as a component in recipes, alongside other gluten-free grains. You can find coconut flour in most supermarkets these days.

Coconut flour contains few carbohydrates and is still a good substitute for grain.

Chickpea flour

This flour also absorbs a lot of moisture. It is ideal  for savory dishes : wraps, quiche and vegetable muffins. Chickpea flour contains a lot of protein, so that’s a plus. It can sometimes provoke a reaction in sensitive intestines, so start sparingly. You can find it in organic supermarkets.

Amaranth

Perhaps the least known pseudo-cereal in the list, but nevertheless not one to forget. Amaranth was already eaten by the Aztecs and for good reason.

The nutritional value of amaranth is very high, with many vitamins and especially many minerals. (3)

The best way to eat amaranth is to pop it in a dry frying pan. Delicious on a salad or on a bowl of coconut yogurt. You can stir in some cocoa and honey for real indulgence. Amaranth is only sold at organic stores.

Wild and brown rice

Rice is neither a grain nor a seed. It belongs to the grass family. Brown (whole grain) rice is slightly different from its white brother. The germs and bran are still present, which ensures that there are more  nutrients and fiber in the brown variety  .

If you opt for rice, choose a variety with the longest possible cooking time. This is the least processed variety with the most vitamins and minerals.

A cooking time of around 45 minutes is ideal. Brown rice-based pasta and noodles are also available.

Wild rice looks different and doesn’t taste the same. This also belongs to the grass family. It contains more nutrients than regular rice, including more protein and fiber. Wild rice is reasonably priced and is therefore often mixed with white rice. So take a good look at the packaging. You can find 100% wild rice in organic stores.

Vary plenty and eat these ‘grains’ in moderation

These gluten-free substitutes are healthy and packed with nutrients. Yet they are all also high in carbohydrates, with the exception of coconut flour. Although they will give you a less runaway blood glucose level than the standard grains, it is recommended not to consume them with every meal.

Alternate  with other healthy gluten-free foods such as vegetables, nuts and seeds, eggs, a little fish and meat. Then you will soon have a healthy diet!

Many healthy gluten-free grain substitutes do contain a lot of carbohydrates. Use them sparingly.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/6/4/107
  2. https://nos.nl/artikel/2243573-sales-of-glutenvrij-producten-in-paar-jaar-tijd-doubled.html
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22515252/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27046048/

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