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    Nutritional Content of Alternative Gluten-Free Grains and Flours


    Wendy Cohan

    Celiac.com 10/02/2008 - Whole grains are good sources of B-Vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and selenium, but one of their most important nutritional benefits is the fiber they bring to our diets.  Whole grains such as wheat, brown rice, and oats include both soluble and insoluble fiber.  Soluble fiber is easy to remember – it is water soluble, and as such can be assimilated into the body, where it plays an important role in blood sugar regulation and cholesterol balance.   Soluble fiber also helps provide a sense of fullness or satiety.  Insoluble fiber is - you guessed it - insoluble in water, and is not assimilated into the body, but passes through the digestive tract and is eliminated.  That does not mean insoluble fiber has a less important nutritional role to play.  Insoluble fiber is very important in keeping our digestive and elimination systems regular.  Fiber aids the transit of toxic substances out of the body, and in doing so, helps to reduce the incidence of colon and rectal cancers.


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    In eliminating gluten grains from your diet, have you wondered what you are missing nutritionally?  Are you able to get adequate replacements for the nutrients in wheat, barley, rye, and oats, from the other nutritional components of your diet?  The answer is a qualified yes.  We know this on several levels.  For tens of thousands of years, entire cultures have thrived without growing or consuming any of the gluten grains.  We also know, from looking at what nutrients gluten grains provide, that there are more than adequate sources of these nutrients in alternative grains, and from vegetable sources.  Fiber is something we do need to be aware of, though.  Studies have shown that standard gluten-free diets are low in fiber, especially when baking with the “white” alternative products like white or sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch.  We can remedy this by eating alternative grains in whole, unprocessed states, and by including nuts, seeds, and other sources of fiber such as dried coconut and legumes in our diets.  Wheat is an excellent source of Vitamin E, so those on gluten-free diets might want to supplement with a good brand of Vitamin E.

    Some commercial gluten-free flour blends seek to duplicate white flour, and are made primarily of white rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch (see the nutrition comparisons on the next page).  These products are nearly devoid of nutrition and contain almost no fiber.  Using these types of products result in baked goods that are the nutritional equivalent of wonder-bread.  If you didn’t eat wonder-bread before going gluten-free, why should you attempt to duplicate it now?  When making your flour blends, coming up with new recipes, and altering traditional wheat-flour recipes, try to include alternative grain products (and sometimes nut flours) that contain substantial amounts of fiber, protein, calcium, and iron, all nutrients found in whole grains, but in much smaller amounts in highly processed grains.  Quinoa, sorghum, teff, amaranth, brown rice and millet flour are all good products to try.

    See the chart attached to this article (the link to it is in the "Attachments" section below) for the nutrient content of the many gluten-free alternative grains, starches, and nut flours.  The highest levels of nutrients in each category are noted, and you can see what nutritional powerhouses grains like teff, quinoa, sorghum, and amaranth are compared to white rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch.  

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    Guest Karen Norman

    Posted

    Thank you, I really appreciate your articles!

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    Guest Michael Shepard

    Posted

    Very useful overview that should help guide readers toward a better diet. The chart would be better if it included wheat for comparison.

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    Guest Linda Russell

    Posted

    This is very good to know. I can now substitute flours as I see fit to keep my husband in better shape.

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    Very good information, but I would like to hear more. What are the best sources for soluble and insoluble fiber? I assume that the flax seed that I take is insoluble fiber.

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    Guest suzanne Durland

    Posted

    Wonderful information all in one place, thank you.

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    Guest Christine Levine

    Posted

    I appreciated the article. When I first started on a gluten free diet, I tried using cookbooks that used many ingredients like white rice flour and potato starch. I thought most of them tasted like they were missing the wallpaper. Since then, I have been using a lot of sorghum and brown rice flour - they work much better and taste more like what I used to eat.

     

    I wish there were cookbooks available that included more than just a small handful of the alternative grains.

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    Guest Sally

    Posted

    Great information. So many of the prepackaged gluten-free flour mixes contain only the brown rice for extra fiber and protein. I know mixing in the others was better and tastier---but having the comparison chart was very helpful.

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    Thanks, Have just started going gluten free and was looking for just such an article.

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    Guest Rose Hilgartner

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    I wish they would provide a nutritional chart of all the gluten free flours, so you can figure the calories and nutrition of homemade foods all in one small chart.

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    Guest Debbie Eads

    Posted

    I'm happy to find your site as I am just starting on a gluten free diet. I've always loved whole grain wheat and have been a bread lover. I have GERD and I am gluten intolerant. It seems I have trouble too with high fat foods. Thank you for this information, I 'm looking forward to learning from it.

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    Very useful overview that should help guide readers toward a better diet. The chart would be better if it included wheat for comparison.

    Yes I agree. A comparison to what we need to exclude would be great!

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  • About Me

    An RN for 14 years, I have been following a strict gluten-free diet for six years of improving health! Now I help others as a Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance Educator. I work one on one with people on meal planning, shopping, cooking and dining out gluten-free. I will also work with children who have behavioral issues related to gluten or other food sensitivities.  My book "Gluten-Free PORTLAND" is a comprehensive resource guide to the gluten-free diet and is available on my website www.glutenfreechoice.com. My other websites are: www.WellBladder.com and www.neighborhoodnurse.net.

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    Scott Adams
    The following was written by Donald D. Kasarda who is a research chemist in the Crop Improvement and Utilization Research Unit of the United States Department of Agriculture. If you have any questions or comments regarding the piece, you can address them to Don at: kasarda@pw.usda.gov.
    Most sprouted wheat still has gluten or gluten peptides remaining. Although the sprouting begins enzymatic action that starts to break down the gluten (a storage protein for the plant) into peptides and even amino acids. Generally this is not a complete process for sprouts used in foods so some active peptides (active in celiac disease) remain.

    Danna Korn
    This article originally appeared in the Spring 2003 edition of Celiac.com's Journal of Gluten-Sensitivity.
    -Yes, there’s more to life than rice and corn!
    Variety, it’s been said, is the spice of life.  So what’s a person to do when they’re told to eliminate wheat and/or gluten from their diet?  Most turn to rice, corn, and potatoes—an adequate set of starches, but ones that are sorely lacking in nutrients, flavor, and imagination.
    The superheroes of gluten-free grains are often referred to as “ancient” or alternative grains, which are loaded with nutrients and unique, interesting flavors.  The following is a condensed excerpt from my newly published book, Wheat-Free, Worry-Free: The Art of Happy, Healthy, Gluten-Free Living.
    “Alternative” Grains: The Superheroes of Gluten-Free Grains
    If you’re an adventuresome eater, you’re in for a treat.  In searching for alternatives to wheat, rye, or barley, you’ll discover a variety of wheat-free/gluten-free grains that you may never have heard of before, many of them loaded with nutrients and robust flavors not found in typical grains like wheat and rice.  If you’re not the adventurous type and you just long for the ease of a few tried-and-true favorites, you’ll find them here as well.
    Perhaps you fall into still another category—you’ve been eating a wheat or gluten-free diet for a while and you think you already know everything there is to know.  Okay, what’s quinoa, and how the heck is it pronounced?  Is teff wheat-free?  Do Job’s Tears have religious significance?  If you don’t know the answers to these questions, or if you think ragi is a spaghetti sauce and sorghum is what you get when you have your teeth cleaned, it’s time to move on to lesson one.
    Alternative Grains and Non-Grains
    Even if you can’t eat wheat, rye, barley, or oats, there are several other grains, fruits, and legumes that are not only acceptable alternatives to them, but they also happen to be loaded with flavor and nutrients.  Here are some of the many choices available to those on a wheat and gluten-free diet (WF/gluten-free):

    Amaranth (WF/gluten-free) Buckwheat/groats/kasha (WF/gluten-free) Cassava (arrowroot) (WF/gluten-free) Chickpea (garbanzo) (WF/gluten-free) Job’s Tears (WF/gluten-free) Millet (WF/gluten-free) Montina (WF/gluten-free) Oats (WF/gluten-free, but oats can be contaminated with wheat and other grains) Quinoa (WF/gluten-free) Ragi (WF/gluten-free) Rice (WF/gluten-free; only brown rice is whole grain) Sorghum (WF/gluten-free) Soy (WF/gluten-free) Tapioca (WF/gluten-free) Taro root (WF/gluten-free) Teff (WF/gluten-free)
    Many of the proteins found in these alternatives are a great source of complex carbohydrates.  The fuel from these carbohydrates, found in plant kingdom starches, produces what nutritionists call a protein-sparing effect, which means the body can meet its energy requirements without dipping into its protein reserves. Several of these alternative grains and non-grains are high in lysine, an amino acid that controls protein absorption in the body.  Because this amino acid is absent from most grains, the protein fraction of those grains is utilized only if eaten in conjunction with other foods that do contain lysine.  All high protein grains are better utilized by the body when they are eaten with high-lysine foods such as peas, beans, amaranth, or buckwheat.
    Amaranth (WF/gluten-free): Loaded with fiber and more protein than any traditional grain, amaranth is nutritious and delicious, with a pleasant peppery flavor.  The name means “not withering,” or more literally, “immortal.”  While it may not make you immortal, it is extremely healthful, especially with its high lysine and iron content.
    Buckwheat (groat; kasha) (WF/gluten-free): It sounds as though it would be closely related to wheat, but buckwheat is not related to wheat at all.  In fact, it’s not even a grain; it’s a fruit of the Fagopyrum genus, a distant cousin of garden-variety rhubarb, and its seed is the plant’s strong point.  The buckwheat seed has a three-cornered shell that contains a pale kernel known as a “groat.”  In one form or another, groats have been used as food by people since the 10th century b.c.
    Nutritionally, buckwheat is a powerhouse.  It contains a high proportion of all eight essential amino acids, which the body doesn’t make itself but are still essential for keeping the body functioning.  In that way, buckwheat is closer to being a complete protein than any other plant source.
    Whole white buckwheat is naturally dried and has a delicate flavor that makes it a good stand-in for rice or pasta.  Kasha is the name given to roasted hulled buckwheat kernels.  Kasha is toasted in an oven and tossed by hand until the kernels develop a deep tan color, nutlike flavor, and a slightly scorched smell.
    Be aware, however, that buckwheat is sometimes combined with wheat.  Read labels carefully before purchasing buckwheat products.
    Millet (WF/gluten-free): Millet is said by some to be more ancient than any grain that grows.  Where it was first cultivated is disputed, but native legends tell of a wild strain known as Job’s Tears that grows in the Philippines and sprouted “at the dawn of time.”
    Millet is still well respected in Africa, India, and China, where it is considered a staple.  Here in the United States, it is raised almost exclusively for hay, fodder, and birdseed.  One might consider that to be a waste, especially when considering its high vitamin and mineral content.  Rich in phosphorus, iron, calcium, riboflavin, and niacin, a cup of cooked millet has nearly as much protein as wheat.  It is also high in lysine—higher than rice, corn, or oats.
    Millet is officially a member of the Gramineae (grass) family and as such is related to montina.
    Montina (Indian Rice Grass) (WF/gluten-free): Indian rice grass was a dietary staple of Native American cultures in the Southwest and north through Montana and into Canada more than 7,000 years ago, even before maize (corn) was cultivated.  Similar to maize, montina was a good substitute during years when maize crops failed or game was in short supply.  It has a hearty flavor, and is loaded with fiber and protein.
    Quinoa (“KEEN-wah”) (WF/gluten-free): The National Academy of Science described quinoa as “the most nearly perfect source of protein from the vegetable kingdom.”  Although new to North Americans, it has been cultivated in the South American Andes since at least 3000 b.c.  Ancient Incas called this annual plant “the mother grain,” because it was self-perpetuating and ever-bearing.  They honored it as a sacred food product, since a steady diet appeared to ensure a full, long life; and the Inca ruler himself planted the first row of quinoa each season with a gold spade.
    Like amaranth, quinoa is packed with lysine and other amino acids that make a protein complete.  Quinoa is also high in phosphorus, calcium, iron, vitamin E, and assorted B vitamins.  Technically a fruit of the Chenopodium herb family, quinoa is usually pale yellow in color, but also comes in pink, orange, red, purple, and black.
    Quinoa’s only fault is a bitter coating of saponins its seeds.  The coating comes off with thorough rinsing prior to cooking, and some companies have developed ways to remove the coating prior to delivering quinoa to stores.
    Sorghum (milo) (WF/gluten-free): Sorghum is another of the oldest known grains, and has been a major source of nutrition in Africa and India for years.  Now grown in the United States, sorghum is generating excitement as a gluten-free insoluble fiber.
    Because sorghum’s protein and starch are more slowly digested than that of other cereals, it may be beneficial to diabetics and healthy for anyone.  Sorghum fans boast of its bland flavor and light color, which don’t alter the taste or look of foods when used in place of wheat flour.  Many cooks suggest combining sorghum with soybean flour.
    Soy and Soybeans (WF/gluten-free): Like the ancient foods mentioned at the beginning of this section, soy has been around for centuries.  In China, soybeans have been grown since the 11th century b.c., and are still one of the country’s most important crops.  Soybeans weren’t cultivated in the United States until the early 1800s, yet today are one of this country’s highest yielding producers.
    Soybeans are a legume, belonging to the pea family.  Comprised of nearly 50 percent protein, 25 percent oil, and 25 percent carbohydrate, they have earned a reputation as being extremely nutritious.  They are also an excellent source of essential fatty acids, which are not produced by the body, but are essential to its functioning nonetheless.
    Teff (WF/gluten-free): Considered a basic part of the Ethiopian diet, teff is relatively new to Americans.    Five times richer in calcium, iron, and potassium than any other grain, teff also contains substantial amounts of protein and soluble and insoluble fiber. Considered a nutritional powerhouse, it has a sweet, nutty flavor. Teff grows in many different varieties and colors, but in the United States only the ivory, brown, and reddish-tan varieties can be found. The reddish teff is reserved for purveyors of Ethiopian restaurants, who are delighted to have an American source for their beloved grain.
    A Word About Sprouted Grains
    Some people believe that “sprouted grains,” even ones that contain gluten such as wheat, are gluten-free—not true!  The sprouting process sparks a chemical reaction that begins to break down gluten, so some people who are slightly sensitive to gluten may find that they can tolerate sprouted grains better, but too many of the peptides that are reactive for celiacs are still present, so sprouted grains are not safe for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.


    Tina Turbin
    Celiac.com 08/31/2010 - In my work as an author, researcher, and gluten-free advocate, I know how challenging the gluten-free diet can be. One of the most vital and tricky parts of the diet is learning what foods have gluten and which are "naturally" gluten-free as well as learning how to read labels. Unfortunately, these aren't always enough. Just because a grain is supposed to be "naturally" gluten-free, doesn't mean that it is. In fact, a recent study tested 22 so-called "inherently" gluten-free grains and found that over thirty percent of them had gluten.
    Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye, and is inherently lacking in grains such as oats, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, soy, sorghum, flaxseed, rice, and amaranth seed. A study tested 22 of these "naturally" gluten-free grains, and 7 of them had a gluten amount higher than 20 ppm, which would disqualify them from being labeled as gluten-free under the proposed FDA guidelines.
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    According to Grain Free Living, the health benefits of going grain-free have been proven "through the personal experience of hundreds of people worldwide who have experienced significant relief from symptoms of Crohn's disease (and many other illnesses of the digestive system) and also for chronic fatigue." The mainstream medical community has been critical of the "anecdotal evidence" from the testimonies of those who have reported an improvement in health. Clinical studies on the matter have yet to be carried out.
    A grain-free diet doesn't have to be boring. In fact, grain-free cookbooks have come out with grain-free recipes for favorite American foods such as pancakes, muffins, lasagna, cakes, and cookies. For those who have a digestive or other condition or who wish to eliminate health risks, I would recommend talking to your healthcare practitioner about a grain-free diet.
    For the gluten-free community who wishes to continue to eat grains, this study of the gluten content of "naturally" gluten-free grains can be startling. Look for grain products that are certified gluten-free by such organizations as the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) or make sure to do thorough company research before you try "inherently" gluten-free grains.
    References:

    Thompson T, Lee A, Grace T. Gluten contamination of grains, seeds, and flours in the United States: A pilot study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110:937-940.  Abstract available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20497786 Thompson, T. Contamination of Naturally Gluten-Free Grains. Living Gluten-Free. June 1, 2010. Available at: http://www.diet.com/dietblogs/read_blog.php?title=&blid=19524
     

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 10/05/2012 - Buckwheat flour significantly improves the nutrition and texture in gluten-free breads, according to a new study published in the journal Food Hydrocolloids. The study examines the role of buckwheat and hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) in making gluten-free breads.
    The researchers point out that the food industry has cleared numerous formulation hurdles associated with removing gluten from dough, and created numerous new gluten-free products. However, they add, many gluten-free breads are still made with pure starches, "resulting in low technological and nutritional quality."
    The research team included M. Mariotti, M. Ambrogina Pagani and M. Lucisano. They are affiliated with the Department of Food Science and Technology and Microbiology (DiSTAM) at the University of Milan.
    In their study, they found that high levels of buckwheat flour improves both the texture and nutrition of gluten-free breads.
    Their findings showed that including up to 40% de-hulled buckwheat flour improved the leavening characteristics and overall quality of gluten-free breads.
    Because it is high in dietary fiber, the buckwheat flour increases dough viscosity, along with "the swelling and gelling properties of the buckwheat starch and the emulsion-forming and stabilizing properties of the globulin protein fraction,” the researchers wrote.
    The study also found that bread crumbs in gluten-free bread made with buckwheat flour and the food additive HPMC were softer than in gluten-free bread made without buckwheat flour.
    For their study, the research team evaluated ten bread formulas, 2 commercial, 8 experimental, with varying levels of buckwheat flours and HPMC. These formulas used both de-hulled and puffed buckwheat flour. The team based all experimental formulas on recipes from the two commercial samples.
    The formula that yielded the most favorable gluten-free bread included, 40% de-hulled buckwheat flour, 5% puffed buckwheat flour and 0.5% HPMC.

    Source:
    Journal of Food Hydrocolloids doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2012.07.005

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    USC’s Clinical Trials Centre Director Lucas Litewka said trial participants would receive an injection of the vaccine twice a week for seven weeks. The trials will be conducted alongside gastroenterologist Dr. James Daveson, who called the vaccine “a very exciting potential new therapy that has been undergoing clinical trials for several years now.”
    Dr. Daveson said the investigational vaccine might potentially restore gluten tolerance to people with celiac disease.The trial is open to adults between the ages of 18 and 70 who have clinically diagnosed celiac disease, and have followed a strict gluten-free diet for at least 12 months. Anyone interested in participating can go to www.joinourtrials.com.
    Read more at the website for Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast Clinical Trials Centre.

    Source:
    FoodProcessing.com.au