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Gluten-free grain alternatives for the modern-day celiac

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Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder present among approximately three million Americans today, triggered by a protein known as gluten. Gluten elicits irritation in the affected person’s small intestine, causing malabsorption of nutrients. Over time, this can cause weight loss, stomach pain, joint pain, and long-term intestinal damage if left untreated.

With a balanced, gluten-free diet, it is possible for those with celiac to maintain a healthy lifestyle. With respect to gluten-free grain substitutions, many people are familiar with soy, buckwheat and quinoa. At the same time, there are other gluten-free options such as amaranth, arrowroot, and sorghum, which might not be as familiar to the average American, but can act as a delicious and nutritious gluten-free substitute as well.

What is amaranth? (Think: Warm & soothing)

Amaranth is a grain with a rich, nut-like flavor, the history of which harkens back to the time of the Aztecs. Amaranth contains all essential amino acids, with the addition of lysine. It is remarkably versatile, functioning as a Mexican treat known as ‘alegria’ when popped with chocolate or molasses.

There is triple the amount of fiber in amaranth as compared to wheat. Amaranth also can be turned into a warm breakfast cereal, served alongside typical breakfast staples such as sliced fruit.

What is arrowroot? (Hint: Thanksgiving feast)

Arrowroot is commonly used as a thickener, and originates from South America. It may be used to thicken sauces, soups, and gravy. Arrowroot should not be used in dairy products as it can create an odd texture, but is perfectly well-suited for baked goods as well as sweet puddings.

Arrowroot contains B-complex vitamins including riboflavin and niacin, as well as folate and minerals such as copper, magnesium, and zinc. It is known for having excellent levels of folate and potassium. One cup of raw arrowroot has 544.8 mg potassium and 405.6μg of folate (102% of the daily value).

What is sorghum? (Yum: Baked goods)
Sorghum, another gluten-free grain, harkens back 8000 to Ancient Egypt. This grain’s outer wax contains policosanols, which may help cardiac health with the potential for lowering cholesterol, according to various researchers. Sorghum can be used as a flour substitute in baked goods such as pizzas, casseroles, cookies, breads, and cakes. In a single cup, there are 22 grams of protein; when coupled with other nutritious foods, it can be a potential nutrient powerhouse.

The take-away message?
There are many gluten-free grain and carbohydrate alternatives, and amaranth, arrowroot, and sorghum are just a few examples. When one is gluten-free, one can still enjoy a well-balanced, healthy diet, with grain substitutes that are equally (if not more) nutrient-filled than their gluten-containing, wheat-filled counterparts.

Sources

American Diabetes Association. “What foods have gluten?” 11 March 2014. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/gluten-free....
“Arrowroot Nutrition Facts.” 2014. http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/arrowroot.html.
Eat This Much. “Arrowroot Raw.” 2014. http://www.eatthismuch.com/food/view/arrowroot,3001/.
Christiansen, Anna. “New FDA ‘gluten-free’ regulation rolls out.” 5 August 2014. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/new-fda-gluten-free-regulation-rolls/.
American Diabetes Association. “What Can I Eat That is Gluten Free?” 23 December 2013. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/gluten-free....
Bob’s Red Mill. http://www.bobsredmill.com.
“Cooking With Grains: Amaranth.” http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03177/How-to-Cook-Amaranth.html.
Moncel, Bethany. “What is Arrowroot Powder?” About.com. http://foodreference.about.com/od/Food-Additives/a/What-Is-Arrowroot-Pow....
Whole Grains Council. “Sorghum June Grain of the Month.” http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/sorghum-june-grain-of-the....

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