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Gluten-free food: which cereals to choose?

Gluten is a protein found in some cereals (wheat, kamut, spelt, bulgur, barley, rye, oats).

However, it is necessary to find alternatives so that the diet continues to be varied when it is necessary to exclude gluten from the diet.

What are the foods of greatest concern?

All processed foods
You should read the label of all the foods you buy because gluten can be where you least expect it: in a ham, a pâté, a hamburger.

You should look not only for the word “gluten”, but also for the name of each of the cereals that contain it: wheat, kamut, bulgur, spelt, barley, rye, oats, as well as bran, wheat germ, wheat starch, couscous, durum wheat semolina, seitan.

Breads, cakes, desserts, biscuits, flours
To replace the foods that you usually use and that contain gluten, you should know the cereals that do not have gluten in their composition and with which there are many products available: flours, breads, cakes, some desserts, breakfast cereals, biscuits.

Gluten-free cereals you can and should look for
It may be simpler, initially, to look for products that have the designation “gluten-free” on their label.

But after getting used to it, you can venture into products that don’t have the “gluten-free” designation on the label, but that you know are gluten-free because you read the ingredients and understand.

Rice and corn
Almost all products that are designated “gluten-free” end up having rice and corn cereals (both or separately) in their composition, as they are the most common.

It is possible to find crackers, flakes, bars, vegetable drinks, breads on the market. And you can obviously also use these cereals in your main meals.

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa)
It originates in the area of ​​Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and was considered sacred to the Incas.

FAO has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. This was the way to publicize and enhance the benefits of this seed, which has a much better protein value than other cereals and whose mineral and photochemical richness continues to surprise.

It can be cooked as if it were rice when purchased in the form of a grain and there are drinks, cookies, bars, flakes, breads that have quinoa in their composition.

At home, there are many foods/dishes that you can make with quinoa in grain or flour.

Quinoa must be washed before consumption to remove bitter-tasting anti-nutritional compounds in the outer layer of the seed called saponins. There are very varied recipes with quinoa.

Quinoa leaves can also be eaten, although it is very difficult to find them for sale.

Millet (Panicum miliaceum)
They look very similar to quinoa, but they are different plants, as the species name can attest.

Millet originates in Asia and Africa and can be considered a family, as there are several species whose designation is “millet”.

Easier to digest than the most common cereals in our diet, it is used to cook as if it were rice and, as with quinoa, there are already drinks, biscuits, bars, flakes and breads that have millet in their composition for sale.

It is not possible to make bread with just quinoa or millet, so you usually have to mix it with other flours or use auxiliaries such as xanthan gum.

Amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus)
The amaranthus family includes many species, with amaranthus hypochondriacus being the most common for food use.

Amaranth originates from Central America, and is known as the food of the Aztecs. On the other hand, it is considered a weed in certain crops and many people use its flowers for decoration.

It is precisely its leaves and seeds that have nutritional value. As far as gluten-free food is concerned, it can be used as a grain to make main dishes and exists in the form of flour and vegetable drink.

It is also possible to find options such as biscuits, bars and breads with amaranth, but always with other cereals on the side.

Although amaranth, quinoa and millet may look similar, their flavor will be easily distinguished after tasting.

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)
Although it is called wheat, buckwheat has nothing in common with what we usually call wheat – triticum aestivium.

Buckwheat is a fruit that can be used as a cereal, it is widely used in Polish, Russian and Jewish cuisine and was brought to Europe by the Crusaders, after observing its use by the Saracen peoples.

It can be used as described for quinoa, millet, amaranth and there are already several commercial options that contain it.

Sorghum (Sorghum)
Originating in Africa and India, although little used in industrialized society, it is the 5th most important cereal in the world, preceded by wheat, rice, corn and barley.

It feeds many African populations but also in South Asia and Central America.

It is not easy to find products that contain sorghum in their composition, you can use the flour for bread and cookies or use the grain itself for main meals.

There is also the possibility of using as flour: potato flakes, tapioca, almond flour, hazelnut, walnut, … (you only need to grind the fruits in their natural form).

Any food can be produced without gluten as long as the combination of flours used manage to mimic the characteristics of elasticity and hydration that gluten provides.

We suggest you taste, experiment and be surprised by what you can do without gluten! Even if you don’t need to have a 100% gluten-free diet, you should vary and try new foods and tastes!

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