Whole grains are important for everyone's health, especially those on gluten-free diets. Gluten-free cookies, crackers, cereals, breads, and other grain-based foods are often made with a blend of flours that mimic the texture of gluten. Typically, this blend includes corn, rice, or tapioca flour—all of which are gluten-free, though are relatively low-fiber, low-protein, and not fortified with important nutrients. That’s where gluten-free whole grains come in.
Whole grains contain all 3 parts of the grain kernel—the bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains, on the other hand, consist only of the endosperm. The bran and the germ have been stripped away, leaving behind white, fluffy carbohydrate. Because the bran and germ are the most nutritious parts, whole grains contain more protein, fiber, B vitamins, and other nutrients compared to refined grains.
The protein and fiber found in whole grains are important. These nutrients slow down digestion, leaving us feeling full for longer, and promoting a healthier blood sugar response.
The b-vitamins founds in whole grains are important as well, especially for those on gluten-free diets. Our government mandates that wheat-based (i.e. gluten-containing) flours and cereals be fortified with important b-vitamins like folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and iron. Gluten-free alternatives are not fortified, leaving gluten-free eaters at risk of developing deficiencies in these nutrients. Because whole grains are a natural source of b-vitamins, whole grains are a useful tool for helping those on gluten-free diets get the nutrients they need.
Luckily, many whole grains are naturally gluten-free. Combine them with your favorite veggies, seasonings, and a generous glug of olive oil. Or enjoy their nutty, earthy flavor on their own!