Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gluten Free Grains

When you are first learning to eat gluten free, it seems as though the whole world is made of wheat. Sometimes when I was in the grocery store I would look at entire aisles in amazement that every item on the shelf was made of wheat. Even for someone who can tolerate it, is a diet so narrow really healthy?

Once we had cut all the wheat in our lives, it suddenly seemed as though all we were consuming was rice. When I took stock of the items we were buying to replace our wheat products, I realized that everything we were buying (and spending way too much on) was made of some form of rice. The pastas, the cookies, the cereals... This couldn't be healthy either.

I am not sure how it came to be that we only consume so few grains in this country and why there are so many other healthier grains grown here and all around the world (something to do with profits I assume). How is it that most Americans have never even heard of them when many of them are grown here? I had never heard of many of them until we had to start eating gluten free, but now I am on a quest to try them all and incorporate them into our diets. You can't buy these things ready made in a box, so I am learning to cook; to really cook, real food. I laugh now because in all the 10 years that we have been married (which is actually all of my adult life) I have never really spent any time being concerned about preparing food. Now I find myself washing out canisters that have been on the shelf as decoration in order to store the large quantities of bulk grains and flours that I have been buying. I have had to blow dust off of the stack of cookbooks on top of the refrigerator in order to find recipes to try with these new foods and I am excited by it all. This Celiac diagnosis my family has been given has in some ways been a blessing. without it, I probably never would have taken the time to learn about new foods and cooking. It feels very good to prepare real, good food for my family that will help them grow and be healthy.

Here is a list and a quick synopsis of the inherently gluten free grains I have recently discovered, purchased and set out to learn how to cook and eat. As I try each of them I will share what I learn and the recipes that we like.

Quinoa has been a staple grain in South America for thousands of years. It is as high in protein as milk and high in calcium, b vitamins, potassium and zinc. It's the only one of these grains I have used very much yet and my next post will be dedicated to how we've been eating it.

Millett First grown in China, it was considered a sacred grain, but for some reason it fell out of favor with the upper classes and today is considered poor man's food in most of the world. In the United States however, we don't even consider it fit for human consumption and mostly only sell it as bird feed even though it is extreemly high in iron and is a complete protein.

Amaranth An ancient grain, first grown thousands of years ago in Mexico. It is high in iron, fiber, and amino acids. It is tiny and round.

Sorghum The United States is actually the largest grower of Sorghum in the world. Imagine that. Ever heard of it? What do we do with it all if no one here eats it? Sorghum flour is great for making gluten free breads. I have a great recipe I have been looking forward to trying. I just got a kitchenaid mixer and I can't wait to put it to good use!

Teff is the staple grain of Ethiopia and I bought some because I am excited to try making traditional Ethiopian injera bread. It is a thin spongey pancake like bread that is kind of sour. It is used to scoop up food in liue of utensils in Ethiopian cuisine. It is extreemly nutritious containing lots of protein, calcium and iron. One cup of teff contains the entire USDA recommended ammount of iron for an adult for one day!

This information came from the book, Gluten Free Girl, which I highly reccomend! The author, Shauna Ahren has a great blog too!

1 comment:

Kathi said...

Oh good, I've been wanting some good recipes and ideas for quinoa! I've only used millet a couple of times - make make baby food for Jack b/c it was so much healthier than rice cereal.