Grains in various bread, flour, cereal, crackers, rice, and pasta are staples in our diet. They have a long history in humankind’s past as well our progressive development. But are you allergic to them? Specifically, are you allergic to gluten?

You’ll find the protein gluten in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a cross of wheat and barley). You can find wheat, rye, and barley in almost every recipe, as gluten helps food maintain its shape and acts as a glue to hold it together.  In addition to the above list of grain products, you will almost also certainly find it in condiments, malt, food coloring, soups, salad dressings, beer, Brewer’s Yeast, sauces, and more.

If you are allergic to gluten or are gluten intolerant, what grain options do you have?  Are they nutritionally beneficial?  We’ll first go over the history of gluten and then get into some great gluten-free alternatives.

Grains in human history

Grains have been an essential part of humanity’s history for thousands of years.  Breadcrumbs of a pita-like flatbread were discovered in July 2018 in northeastern Jordan that dated back 14,500 years.  Originally, archeologists had dated breadmaking back to the start of agriculture in the Neolithic era.  This last finding places breadmaking 5,000 years earlier.  It was attributed to a group of Stone Age hunter-gatherers called Natufians.

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How does the body react to gluten?

Gluten is a term used for multiple proteins or prolamins found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale.   The prolamins in wheat are called gliadin and glutenin, while the primary one in barley is called hordein.

Oddly enough, gluten proteins are highly resistant to protease enzymes which break down proteins through digestion.  This incomplete digestion of protein allows large units of amino acids, or peptides, to go through the wall of your small intestine into the rest of your body.  Your body may see these amino acids as enemies and attempt to kill them.  Our body is designed to get rid of excessive proteins or protein-creating cells.  This attempt to eliminate these “enemies” shows itself as an immune response that can create various symptoms in a person.

What Happens When Someone Is Gluten Intolerant?

Three conditions may manifest as a result of having a gluten intolerance.

Celiac disease:

This disease is a combination of a genetic disorder and environmental conditions which impact about 1% of the world’s population.  It is considered an inflammatory autoimmune disease of the small intestine. Some people with Celiac disease also have other autoimmune disorders.  For those with Hashimoto’s, a thyroid disease, Celiac is four times higher than the general public.

By eating grains containing gluten, damage occurs to enterocytes, which are cells lining your small intestines.  This leads to intestinal damage, poor nutritional absorption, and possibly weight loss and diarrhea.  It can additionally contribute to anemia, osteoporosis, neurological disorders, and skin diseases.  Some can have no symptoms at all.

This condition is best diagnosed by an intestinal biopsy or by blood testing for specific genotypes or antibodies.  The only “cure” is to eliminate gluten from your diet.

Wheat Allergy:

One study reveals that a wheat allergy affects more children than adults, and like Celiac, it is an immune response to proteins in wheat.  These symptoms can be mild nausea to anaphylaxis – a reaction that causes the throat to close up due to an allergic response.  It is possible to have both a Celiac and a wheat allergy.  Wheat allergies are usually diagnosed by a blood or skin-prick test.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity:

It is possible to have intestinal symptoms and other symptoms when one consumes gluten without technically receiving a diagnosis of food allergies.  Some of the other symptoms may be headache, fatigue, and joint pain.  It is important to rule out the other two possibilities before being diagnosed with Non-celiac gluten sensitivity.  Like the other two diagnoses, removing gluten from your diet results in an improvement of symptoms.

Researchers explain that there is no test to see if you are non-celiac gluten sensitive. You must eliminate gluten from your body and see if your symptoms decrease or go away.

Enter the Good News: Gluten-free Grains

The good news?  There are plenty of gluten-free grains available, and they all have several nutritional benefits.  It should be cautioned that it is best to buy these grains as “Certified Gluten-free,” as many of the companies that package these grains also package wheat, rye, and barley-related products.  Even traces of gluten from the dust of those grains can be enough to create a reaction.  “Certified Gluten-Free” verifies that the company has made a point not to package gluten ingredients and non-gluten grains from the same machinery, so there is no cross-contamination.

Here are ten gluten-free grains that make you healthier:

Try these alternatives.

  1. Sorghum:

This is generally used as a cereal grain or produced to make sorghum syrup or even some alcoholic beverages.  It contains plant compounds with antioxidants; studies have shown it to have anti-inflammatory properties and an ability to reduce blood sugar and insulin.  It contains 12 grams of fiber, 22 grams of protein, and almost half of your daily dose of iron in one cup.

  1. Quinoa:

This is an amino acid powerhouse – having all 8 amino acids.  It also has a high number of antioxidants.  Nutritionists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical, UPMC, explain that quinoa contains 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.  It also has almost your daily dose of magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous.

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  1. Millet:

Nope, it is not just for the birds! Researchers proved that this grain could help decrease blood triglycerides and inflammation and lower blood sugar and glycemic responses.  One cup contains 2 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, and 19% of the daily dose of magnesium.

  1. Buckwheat:

It may sound like you should avoid this, but it actually does not contain gluten or wheat.  A study showed that it could help achieve positive wellness outcomes:

  • Reduced risks of high blood pressure
  • Weight control
  • Decrease the chances of developing heart disease
  • Reduce the chance of developing gallstones.

One cup delivers 17 grams of fiber, 23 grams of protein, and over 90% of magnesium, copper, and manganese for your day.

  1. Amaranth:

An old and cherished grain, historians trace amaranth back to the Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations. Studies find it helpful to treat inflammation and decreasing blood triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels. One cup contains 5 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein. It also meets 29% of daily iron needs as well as other minerals.

  1. Teff:

Teff is the smallest grain in the world at 1/100th the size of a kernel of wheat.  Because of its tiny size, you can use it as flour or paste in your recipes.

The Journal of Food Science and Technology notes that this tiny grain contains powerful benefits. They cite these reasons to add teff to your menu:

  • Teff contains all eight amino acids our bodies need
  • Low risk of sensitivity or food allergies
  • Excellent fiber content
  • Useful in helping to prevent diabetes
  • It May help prevent anemia

Nutritionally, it has approximately twelve grams of protein and twelve grams of fiber in just one cup.  The protein and fiber make it a great way to help one feel full to reduce cravings, boost metabolism, and improve regularity. It also contains B vitamins. Wow! What a powerhouse!

  1. Wild Rice:

This grain may be temperamental in how it grows, but it is full of nutritional value and flavor.  It provides the body with protein, fiber, folate, Vitamin B6, niacin, and other minerals.  It has been discovered that it has 30 times greater antioxidant activity than white rice and effectively lowers cholesterol and other fatty lipids.

  1. Brown Rice:

This is the healthier version of white rice, as it retains both the bran and germ of the grain that white rice lacks. This gluten-free grain is high in protein and fiber and is commonly known to decrease the risk of diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.

One cup yields 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.  Brown rice also contains magnesium and selenium.

  1. Corn:

Another grain used generously throughout humankind’s history, corn is also prevalent.  It is high in antioxidants, lutein, and zeaxanthin – which aids in eye health and decreases cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.  One-half of a cup of yellow corn contains 6 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein and is also high in magnesium, vitamin B6, thiamin, manganese, and selenium.

However, corn can cause symptoms to flare up in people who suffer from digestive issues or irritable bowel syndrome.

  1. Oats:

Oats already have an excellent reputation, being recognized for lowering LDL and total cholesterol levels.  It has also been shown that it may slow the absorption of sugar and lower blood sugar and insulin levels.  A 1/4 cup of oats provides 4 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein with B vitamins and minerals thrown in for good measure.

Please also note that while oat is gluten-free, sometimes some gluten-intolerant people may become sensitive to avenin, the protein found in oats.   Additionally, it is more likely that oats will be cross-contaminated at packaging plants. So, make sure only to buy “Certified Gluten-Free” oats.

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Final Thoughts on Adding Gluten-Free Grains to Help Reduce Sensitivities

As you can see, gluten-free grains not only have a long history of use but contain several health benefits, including their levels of protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals.  Whether you are gluten intolerant or want to eat healthier, these 10 gluten-free grains will definitely make you healthier in multiple ways!